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Mol Ther. 2009 Apr;17(4):667-74. doi: 10.1038/mt.2009.1. Epub 2009 Feb 17.

Optimized lentiviral vector design improves titer and transgene expression of vectors containing the chicken beta-globin locus HS4 insulator element.

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  • 1Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Nippon Medical School, Tokyo, Japan.


Hematopoietic cell gene therapy using retroviral vectors has achieved success in clinical trials. However, safety issues regarding vector insertional mutagenesis have emerged. In two different trials, vector insertion resulted in the transcriptional activation of proto-oncogenes. One strategy for potentially diminishing vector insertional mutagenesis is through the use of self-inactivating lentiviral vectors containing the 1.2-kb insulator element derived from the chicken beta-globin locus. However, use of this element can dramatically decrease both vector titer and transgene expression, thereby compromising its practical use. Here, we studied lentiviral vectors containing either the full-length 1.2-kb insulator or the smaller 0.25-kb core element in both orientations in the partially deleted long-terminal repeat. We show that use of the 0.25-kb core insulator rescued vector titer by alleviating a postentry block to reverse transcription associated with the 1.2-kb element. In addition, in an orientation-dependent manner, the 0.25-kb core element significantly increased transgene expression from an internal promoter due to improved transcriptional termination. This element also demonstrated barrier activity, reducing variability of expression due to position effects. As it is known that the 0.25-kb core insulator has enhancer-blocking activity, this particular insulated lentiviral vector design may be useful for clinical application.

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