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Gene Ther. 2006 Apr;13(7):641-5.

Woodchuck hepatitis virus post-transcriptional regulatory element deleted from X protein and promoter sequences enhances retroviral vector titer and expression.

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  • 1Department of Hematology, Hemostaseology and Oncology, Hannover Medical School, Hannover, Germany.


Introduction of the post-transcriptional regulatory element (PRE) of woodchuck hepatitis virus (WHV) into the 3' untranslated region of retroviral and lentiviral gene transfer vectors enhances both titer and transgene expression. Optimal use of the PRE is often necessary to obtain vectors with sufficient performance for therapeutic applications. The enhancing activity of the PRE depends on the precise configuration of its sequence and the context of the vector and cell into which it is introduced. However, data obtained in the context of WHV-associated hepatocellular carcinomas suggests that the PRE might potentially contribute to tumorigenesis, especially if encoding a truncated version of the WHV X protein. Oncogenic side effects of lentiviral vectors containing the PRE have reinforced these safety concerns, although a causal role of the PRE remained unproven. Here, we demonstrate that PRE mutants can be generated that are devoid of X protein open reading frames (ORFs) as well as other ORFs exceeding 25 amino acids, without significant loss of RNA enhancement activity. Furthermore, the X protein promoter could be deleted without compromising the enhancement of vector titers and transgene expression. Such a modified PRE sequence appears useful for future vector design.

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