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Hum Gene Ther Methods. 2016 Apr;27(2):59-70. doi: 10.1089/hgtb.2015.131. Epub 2016 Feb 26.

Extensive Replication of a Retroviral Replicating Vector Can Expand the A Bulge in the Encephalomyocarditis Virus Internal Ribosome Entry Site and Change Translation Efficiency of the Downstream Transgene.

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1 Tocagen Inc. , San Diego, California.
2 Department of Molecular and Medical Pharmacology, David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California-Los Angeles , Los Angeles, California.
3 Department of Cell Biology, Miller School of Medicine, University of Miami , Miami, Florida.


We have developed retroviral replicating vectors (RRV) derived from Moloney murine gammaretrovirus with an amphotropic envelope and an encephalomyocarditis virus (EMCV) internal ribosome entry site (IRES)-transgene cassette downstream of the env gene. During long-term (180 days) replication of the vector in animals, a bulge of 7 adenosine residues (A's) in the J-K bifurcation domain sometimes serially added A's. Therefore, vectors with 4-12 A's in the A bulge in the J-K bifurcation domain were generated, and the impact of the variants on transgene protein expression, vector stability, and IRES sequence upon multiple infection cycles was assessed in RRV encoding yeast-derived cytosine deaminase and green fluorescent protein in vitro. For transgene protein expression, after multiple infection cycles, RRV-IRES with 5-7 A's gave roughly comparable levels, 4 and 8 A's were within about 4-5-fold of the 6 A's, whereas 10 and 12 A's were marked lower. In terms of stability, after 10 infection cycles, expansion of A's appeared to be a more frequent event affecting transgene protein expression than viral genome deletions or rearrangement: 4 and 5 A's appeared completely stable; 6, 7, and particularly 8 A's showed some level of expansion in the A bulge; 10 and 12 A's underwent both expansion and transgene deletion. The strong relative translational activity of the 5 A's in the EMCV IRES has not been reported previously. The 5A RRV-IRES may have utility for preclinical and clinical applications where extended replication is required.

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