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Hum Gene Ther. 1997 Mar 20;8(5):575-84.

Optimization of plasmid vectors for high-level expression in lung epithelial cells.

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Genzyme Corporation, Framingham, MA 01701-9322, USA.


Nonviral gene therapy approaches use a plasmid vector to express the desired transgene. We have systematically examined several regulatory elements within plasmid vectors that govern gene expression, e.g., the promoter, enhancer, intron, and polyadenylation signal, by constructing a series of plasmids that differed only in the particular sequence element being evaluated. Of the several promoters and polyadenylation signal sequences that were tested, the human cytomegalovirus (CMV) immediate early gene promoter and the addition of polyadenylation signal sequences from the bovine growth hormone (BGH) gene or rabbit beta-globin gene produced the highest levels of expression in vitro. The inclusion of a hybrid intron 3 to the promoter further increased expression 1.6-fold. The addition of a region of the CMV enhancer 5' to several weak promoters increased expression 8- to 67-fold, and co-transfection with a second plasmid encoding a chimeric transcription factor also enhanced expression. On the basis of these results, the CMV promoter, the hybrid intron, and the BGH polyadenylation signal were selected for consistent high level expression in vitro and in the mouse lung. However, expression was transient, with greater than 60% loss of activity in the first 7 days. This transient expression was not specific to CMV promoter-containing plasmids, because plasmids containing other heterologous promoters showed a similar profile of transient expression in vivo. These comparative analyses begin to provide a basis for the development of optimized expression plasmids for gene therapy of lung diseases.

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