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Blood. 2002 Feb 15;99(4):1165-73.

Retrovirus-mediated gene transfer in primary T lymphocytes impairs their anti-Epstein-Barr virus potential through both culture-dependent and selection process-dependent mechanisms.

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INSERM E-0119/UPRES EA-2284, Etablissement Français du Sang- Bourgogne/Franche-Comté, Besançon, France.


To modulate alloreactivity after hematopoietic stem cell transplantation, suicide gene-expressing donor T cells can be administered with an allogeneic T-cell-depleted bone marrow graft. Immune competence of such cells is a critical issue. The impact of the ex vivo gene transfer protocol (12-day culture period including CD3/interleukin-2 [IL-2] activation, retroviral-mediated gene transfer, and G418-based selection) on the anti-Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) potential of gene-modified cells has been examined. Cytotoxic (pCTL) and helper (pTh) cell precursor limiting dilution assays, interferon-gamma enzyme-linked immunospot, or fluorescence-activated cell sorter analysis after tetrameric HLA-A2/EBV peptide complexes revealed that the frequency of anti-EBV T cells was lower in gene-modified cells (GMCs) than in similarly cultured but untransduced T cells and was even lower than in fresh peripheral blood mononuclear cells, demonstrating both an effect of the culture and of the transduction or selection. The culture-dependent loss of EBV-reactive cells resulted from the preferential induction of activation-induced cell death in tetramer(+) cells. Replacing the initial CD3/IL-2 activation by CD3/CD28/IL-2 partially restored the anti-EBV response of GMCs by reducing the initial activation-induced cell death and enhancing the proliferation of EBV-tetramer(+) cells. Moreover, the G418 selection, and not the transduction, was directly toxic to transduced tetramer(+) cells. Replacing the G418 selection by an immunomagnetic selection significantly prevented the selection-dependent loss of EBV-specific cells. Overall, ex vivo gene modification of primary T cells can result in a significant reduction in EBV-reactive T cells through both culture-dependent and selection-dependent mechanisms. Improving immune functions of GMCs through modifications of the cell culture conditions and transduction/selection processes is critical for further clinical studies.

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