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Toxicol Sci. 2017 Feb;155(2):315-325. doi: 10.1093/toxsci/kfw220. Epub 2016 Nov 1.

Viral Vectors: The Road to Reducing Genotoxicity.

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Genetic Toxicology, Discovery Safety, AstraZeneca, Cambridge, CB4 0WG, UK
Genetic Toxicology, Discovery Safety, AstraZeneca, Cambridge, CB4 0WG, UK.


Viral vector use in gene therapy has highlighted several safety concerns, including genotoxic events. Generally, vector-mediated genotoxicity results from upregulation of cellular proto-oncogenes via promoter insertion, promoter activation, or gene transcript truncation, with enhancer-mediated activation of nearby genes the primary mechanism reported in gene therapy trials. Vector-mediated genotoxicity can be influenced by virus type, integration target site, and target cell type; different vectors have distinct integration profiles which are cell-specific. Non-viral factors, including patient age, disease, and dose can also influence genotoxic potential, thus the choice of test models and clinical trial populations is important to ensure they are indicative of efficacy and safety. Efforts have been made to develop viral vectors with less risk of insertional mutagenesis, including self-inactivating (SIN) vectors, enhancer-blocking insulators, and microRNA targeting of vectors, although insertional mutagenesis is not completely abrogated. Here we provide an overview of the current understanding of viral vector-mediated genotoxicity risk from factors contributing to viral vector-mediated genotoxicity to efforts made to reduce genotoxicity, and testing strategies required to adequately assess the risk of insertional mutagenesis. It is clear that there is not a 'one size fits all' approach to vector modification for reducing genotoxicity, and addressing these challenges will be a key step in the development of therapies such as CRISPR-Cas9 and delivery of future gene-editing technologies.


gene therapy; mutagenesis.; viral vector

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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