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Hum Gene Ther. 2012 Feb;23(2):231-7. doi: 10.1089/hum.2010.177. Epub 2011 Dec 14.

Gammaretroviral vector integration occurs overwhelmingly within and near DNase hypersensitive sites.

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  • 1Department of Medicine, Division of Medical Genetics, University of Washington , Seattle, WA 98195, USA.


Concerns surrounding the oncogenic potential of recombinant gammaretroviral vectors has spurred a great deal of interest in vector integration site (VIS) preferences. Although gammaretroviral vectors exhibit a modest preference for integration near transcription start sites (TSS) of active genes, such associations only account for about a third of all VIS. Previous studies suggested a correlation between gammaretroviral VIS and DNase hypersensitive sites (DHS), which mark chromatin regions associated with cis-regulatory elements. In order to study this issue directly, we assessed the correlation between 167 validated gammaretroviral VIS and a deep genome-wide map of DHS, both determined in the same cell line (the human fibrosarcoma HT1080). The DHS map was developed by sequencing individual DNase I cleavage sites using massively parallel sequencing technologies. These studies revealed an overwhelming preference for integrations associated with DHS, with a median distance of only 238 bp between individual VIS and the nearest DHS for the experimental dataset, compared to 3 kb for a random dataset and 577 to 1457 bp for two unrelated cell lines (p<0.001). Indeed, nearly 84% of all VIS were found to be located within 1 kb of a DHS (p=10(-43)). Further, this correlation was statistically independent from the association with TSS. The preference for DHS far exceeds that seen for other hallmarks of gammaretroviral VIS, including TSS, and may help explain several aspects of gammaretroviral vector biology, including the mechanism of VIS selection, as well as the relative frequency and underlying biology of gammaretroviral vector-mediated genotoxicity.

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