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Hum Gene Ther. 2004 Apr;15(4):361-72.

Novel integrase-defective lentiviral episomal vectors for gene transfer.

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  • 1Division of Infectious Disease, Department of Medicine, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, NY 10029, USA.


High levels of circular viral extrachromosomal DNA (E-DNA) are normally produced after infection with integration-competent and -incompetent lentiviruses. Although E-DNA has been shown to be transcriptionally active, it lasts for only a short time in replicating cells. Here, we report an integrase (IN)-defective lentiviral episomal vector in which insertion of the simian virus 40 (SV40) promoter, containing the origin of replication (ori), is associated with long-term expression and persistence of E-DNA in the presence of SV40 large T antigen (TAg) from 293T cells. 293 and 293T cell lines transduced with IN-competent lentiviral vectors expressing green fluorescent protein (GFP) or luciferase from the cytomegalovirus (CMV) or SV40 promoter gave similar levels of transduction and expression. In contrast, only transient reporter expression occurred when using the CMV IN-defective control vector in both 293 and 293T cells. However, reporter gene expression was maintained for more than 8 weeks in 293T, but not 293, cells transduced with the IN-defective lentiviral vector containing the SV40-ori promoter. Polymerase chain reaction for two-long terminal repeat (2LTR) extrachromosomal circular forms, a marker of lentiviral E-DNA, and fluorescence in situ hybridization analysis confirmed the persistence and episomal nature of circular E-DNA up to 60 days after transduction. Taken together, these results indicate that insertion of the SV40-ori promoter in a lentiviral vector contributes to long-term expression by promoting episomal replication when TAg is provided in trans. Lentiviral episomal vectors may serve as specific tools for therapeutic approaches to diseases, particularly those associated with episomal replication of DNA viruses including papillomaviruses, polyomaviruses, and herpesviruses.

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