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Mol Ther. 2004 Oct;10(4):660-70.

Site-specific integration of functional transgenes into the human genome by adeno/AAV hybrid vectors.

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Istituto Scientifico H. San Raffaele, 20132 Milan, Italy.


Uncontrolled insertion of gene transfer vectors into the human genome is raising significant safety concerns for their clinical use. The wild-type adeno-associated virus (AAV) can insert its genome at a specific site in human chromosome 19 (AAVS1) through the activity of a specific replicase/integrase protein (Rep) binding both the AAVS1 and the viral inverted terminal repeats (ITRs). AAV-derived vectors, however, do not carry the rep gene and cannot maintain site-specific integration properties. We describe a novel hybrid vector carrying an integration cassette flanked by AAV ITRs and a tightly regulated, drug-inducible Rep expression cassette in the framework of a high-capacity, helper-dependent adenoviral (Ad) vector. Rep-dependent integration of ITR-flanked cassettes of intact size and function was obtained in human primary cells and cell lines in the absence of selection. The majority of integrations were site specific and occurred within a 1000-bp region of the AAVS1. Genome-wide sequencing of integration junctions indicates that nonspecific integrations occurred predominantly in intergenic regions. Site-specific integration was obtained also in vivo, in an AAVS1 transgenic mouse model: upon a single tail vein administration of a nontoxic dose of Ad/AAV vectors, AAVS1-specific integrations were detected and sequenced in DNA obtained from the liver of all animals in which Rep expression was induced by drug treatment. Nonrandom integration of double-stranded DNA can therefore be obtained ex vivo and in vivoby the use of hybrid Ad/AAV vectors, in the absence of toxicity and with efficiency compatible with gene therapy applications.

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