In vivo Trans-splicing of 5′ and 3′ segments of pre-mRNA directed by corresponding DNA sequences delivered by gene transfer
We have developed a new paradigm of in vivo gene transfer termed "segmental trans-splicing" (STS), in which individual "donor" and "acceptor" DNA sequences, delivered in vitro or in vivo, generate pre-mRNAs with 5' and 3' splice signals, respectively, and complementary hybridization domains through which the two pre-mRNAs interact, facilitating trans-splicing of the two mRNA fragments. To demonstrate STS, we used alpha-cobratoxin, a neurotoxin that binds irreversibly to postsynaptic nicotinic acetylcholine receptors. Cells or animals receiving both donor and acceptor plasmids, but neither plasmid alone, yielded RT-PCR products with the correct sequence of mature alpha-cobratoxin mRNA, suggesting that trans-splicing had occurred. Mice receiving intravenous administration of > or = 7.5 microg donor + acceptor plasmids, but not either plasmid alone, died within 6 h. These data demonstrate that segmental trans-splicing occurs in vivo. This approach should permit the intracellular assembly of molecules hitherto too large to be accommodated within current gene transfer vectors.