3′ Self-inactivating long terminal repeat inserts for the modulation of transgene expression from lentiviral vectors
3' Flanking Region
Gene Transfer Techniques
Terminal Repeat Sequences
Gene transfer for research or gene therapy requires the design of vectors that allow for adequate and safe transgene expression. Current methods to modulate the safety and expression profile of retroviral vectors can involve the insertion of insulators or scaffold/matrix-attachment regions in self-inactivating long terminal repeats (SIN-LTRs). Here, we generated a set of lentiviral vectors (with internal CMV or PGK promoter) in which we inserted (at the level of SIN-LTRs) sequences of avian (i.e., chicken hypersensitive site-4, cHS4), human (i.e., putative insulator and desert sequence), or bacterial origin. We characterized them with respect to viral titer, integration, transduction efficiency and transgene expression levels, in both integrase-proficient and -deficient contexts. We found that the cHS4 insulator enhanced transgene expression by a factor of 1.5 only when cloned in the antisense orientation. On the other hand, cHS4 in the sense orientation as well as all other inserts decreased transgene expression. This attenuation phenomenon persisted over long periods of time and did not correspond to extinction or variegation. Decreased transgene expression was associated with lower mRNA levels, yet RNA stability was not affected. Insertions within the SIN-LTRs may negatively affect transgene transcription in a direct fashion through topological rearrangements. The lentiviral vectors that we generated constitute valuable genetic tools for manipulating the level of transgene expression. Moreover, this study demonstrates that SIN-LTR inserts can decrease transgene expression, a phenomenon that might be overcome by modifying insert orientation, thereby highlighting the importance of careful vector design for gene therapy.