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Gene Ther. 2009 Jan;16(1):43-51. doi: 10.1038/gt.2008.134. Epub 2008 Aug 14.

A small regulatory element from chromosome 19 enhances liver-specific gene expression.

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  • 1Gene Therapy Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC 27599, USA.


Tissue-specific promoters for gene therapy are typically too big for adeno-associated virus (AAV) vectors; thus, the exploration of small effective non-viral regulatory elements is of particular interest. Wild-type AAV can specifically integrate into a region on human chromosome 19 termed AAVS1. Earlier work has determined that a 347 bp fragment (Chr19) of AAVS1 has promoter and transcriptional enhancer activities. In this study, we further characterized this genetic regulation and investigated its application to AAV gene therapy in vitro and in vivo. The Chr19 347 bp fragment was dissected into three regulatory elements in human embryonic kidney cells: (i) TATA-independent promoter activity distributed throughout the fragment regardless of orientation, (ii) an orientation-dependent insulator function near the 5' end and (iii) a 107 bp enhancer region near the 3' end. The small enhancer region, coupled to the mini-CMV promoter, was used to drive the expression of several reporters following transduction by AAV2. In vivo data demonstrated enhanced transgene expression from the Chr19-mini-CMV promoter cassette after tail vein injection primarily in the liver at levels comparable to the chicken beta-actin promoter and higher than the liver-specific TTR promoter (>2-fold). However, we did not observe this increase after muscle injection, suggesting tissue-specific enhancement. All of the results support identification of a small DNA fragment (347 bp) from AAV Chr19 integration site capable of providing efficient and enhanced liver-specific transcription when used in recombinant AAV vectors.

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