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Hum Gene Ther. 2008 Mar;19(3):255-66. doi: 10.1089/hum.2007.121.

Tropism of lentiviral vectors in skin tissue.

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Department of Virology, Hebrew University-Hadassah Medical School, Jerusalem 91120, Israel.


The skin is an attractive tissue for gene therapy applications to treat genetic disorders and to express systemically delivered transgenes encoding therapeutic proteins. Understanding the tissue tropism of vectors is a prerequisite for the design of gene therapy trials. Using an ex vivo system of organ culture, we studied factors that determined viral tropism to the epidermal and dermal cells in human and mouse skin. We applied in these studies a lentiviral vector pseudotyped with two glycoproteins that use different cell receptors (vesicular stomatitis virus glycoprotein [VSV-G] and amphotropic murine leukemia virus envelope). The extent of infection with the amphotropic pseudotype was much higher than that of VSV-G, especially at low multiplicities of infection. In contrast, the tropism of these two pseudotypes in skin tissues was similar; at low multiplicities the infection was limited to areas near the basal layer of the epidermis, whereas at high multiplicities the infection extended to the dermal layer. To overcome physical barriers in the skin, the epidermal and dermal layers were separated and infected. Whereas the human epidermis was readily infected, we could not detect infection of stem and early progenitor cells in their niche. In contrast, mouse epidermis was completely resistant to infection. Dermal cells of both species were readily infected with the two pseudotypes. Molecular analysis indicated that infection of mouse epidermal cells was restricted after proviral DNA synthesis and before integration. In conclusion, we show that lentiviral tropism in a solid tissue is dependent on several factors, extra- and intracellular, distinct of the cellular receptors.

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