Engineered HSV vector achieves safe long-term transgene expression in the central nervous system.
ABSTRACT: Previously we reported a new series of highly defective herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) vectors that were functionally devoid of all viral immediately early (IE) genes, resulting in virtual absence of viral gene expression. Nevertheless, a reporter gene cassette inserted into the vector flanked by boundary elements from the viral latency locus showed high, persistent reporter gene activity in non-neuronal cells while an independent expression cassette inserted into a deleted ICP4 locus remained almost silent. In contrast to non-neuronal cells, we show here that the ICP4 locus cassette permitted robust reporter gene expression in a diversity of neurons following stereotactic injection of different rat brain regions; transgene expression in the hippocampus lasted up to 6 months and was essentially restricted to neurons. No evidence of neuronal cell toxicity or induction of inflammatory cell infiltrates was observed. An independent reporter gene cassette located in an intergenic region remained silent, indicating that the transgene promoter and/or insertion site are critical for sustained expression. These findings suggest the suitability of this vector for therapeutic intervention into diseases of the central nervous system that require the expression of large and/or multiple therapeutic transgenes.
Project description:The ability of herpes simplex virus (HSV) to establish lifelong latency in neurons suggests that HSV-derived vectors hold promise for gene delivery to the nervous system. However, vector toxicity and transgene silencing have created significant barriers to vector applications to the brain. Recently, we described a vector defective for all immediate-early gene expression and deleted for the joint region between the two unique genome segments that proved capable of extended transgene expression in non-neuronal cells. Sustained expression required the proximity of boundary elements from the latency locus. As confirmed here, we have also found that a transgene cassette introduced into the ICP4 locus is highly active in neurons but silent in primary fibroblasts. Remarkably, we observed that removal of the virion host shutoff (vhs) gene further improved transgene expression in neurons without inducing expression of viral genes. In rat hippocampus, the vhs-deleted vector showed robust transgene expression exclusively in neurons for at least 1 month without evidence of toxicity or inflammation. This HSV vector design holds promise for gene delivery to the brain, including durable expression of large or complex transgene cassettes.
Project description:Insertion of a transgene into a defined genomic locus in human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) is crucial in preventing random integration-induced insertional mutagenesis, and can possibly enable persistent transgene expression during hESC expansion and in their differentiated progenies. Here, we employed homologous recombination in hESCs to introduce heterospecific loxP sites into the AAVS1 locus, a site with an open chromatin structure that allows averting transgene silencing phenomena. We then performed Cre recombinase mediated cassette exchange using baculoviral vectors to insert a transgene into the modified AAVS1 locus. Targeting efficiency in the master hESC line with the loxP-docking sites was up to 100%. Expression of the inserted transgene lasted for at least 20 passages during hESC expansion and was retained in differentiated cells derived from the genetically modified hESCs. Thus, this study demonstrates the feasibility of genetic manipulation at the AAVS1 locus with homologous recombination and using viral transduction in hESCs to facilitate recombinase-mediated cassette exchange. The method developed will be useful for repeated gene targeting at a defined locus of the hESC genome.
Project description:Homology directed repair (HDR)-based genome editing via selectable long flanking arm donors can be hampered by local transgene silencing at transcriptionally silent loci. Here, we report efficient bi-allelic modification of a silent locus in patient-derived hiPSC by using Cas9 nickase and a silencing-resistant donor construct that contains an excisable selection/counter-selection cassette. To identify the most active single guide RNA (sgRNA)/nickase combinations, we employed a lentiviral vector-based reporter assay to determine the HDR efficiencies in cella. Next, we used the most efficient pair of sgRNAs for targeted integration of an improved, silencing-resistant plasmid donor harboring a piggyBac-flanked puro?tk cassette. Moreover, we took advantage of a dual-fluorescence selection strategy for bi-allelic targeting and achieved 100% counter-selection efficiency after bi-allelic excision of the selection/counter-selection cassette. Together, we present an improved system for efficient bi-allelic modification of transcriptionally silent loci in human pluripotent stem cells.
Project description:We exploited the differential activation of hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF)-dependent gene expression in tumors versus normal tissue for the design of a targeted oncolytic herpes simplex virus type-1 (HSV-1). A gene that is essential for viral replication, infected cell polypeptide 4 (ICP4), was placed under the regulation of an HIF-responsive promoter and then introduced into the thymidine kinase locus (U(L)23) of HSV d120, which contains partial deletions in the two endogenous ICP4 genes. Recombinant HIF-HSV was isolated and their derivation from d120 was verified by expression of a truncated, non-functional form of ICP4 protein. Disruption of the U(L)23 locus was confirmed by loss of thymidine kinase expression and resistance to acyclovir. Unexpectedly, HIF-HSV expressed ICP4 and induced tumor cell lysis at similar levels under normoxia and hypoxia. The lack of HIF-dependent ICP4 transgene expression by HIF-HSV was due to two factors that have not previously been reported-reversion of the ICP4 gene region to its wild-type configuration and increased HIF-transcriptional activity under normoxia when cells were infected with any strain of HSV-1. The findings that an oncolytic HSV-1 is genetically unstable and can activate a tumor-related promoter in a non-specific manner have important implications for any proposed use of this virus in cancer therapy.
Project description:The design of highly defective herpes simplex virus (HSV) vectors for transgene expression in nonneuronal cells in the absence of toxic viral-gene activity has been elusive. Here, we report that elements of the latency locus protect a nonviral promoter against silencing in primary human cells in the absence of any viral-gene expression. We identified a CTCF motif cluster 5' to the latency promoter and a known long-term regulatory region as important elements for vigorous transgene expression from a vector that is functionally deleted for all five immediate-early genes and the 15-kb internal repeat region. We inserted a 16.5-kb expression cassette for full-length mouse dystrophin and report robust and durable expression in dystrophin-deficient muscle cells in vitro. Given the broad cell tropism of HSV, our design provides a nontoxic vector that can accommodate large transgene constructs for transduction of a wide variety of cells without vector integration, thereby filling an important void in the current arsenal of gene-therapy vectors.
Project description:Development of next-generation oncolytic viruses requires the design of vectors that are potently oncolytic, immunogenic in human tumors, and well tolerated in patients. Starting with a joint-region deleted herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1) to create large transgene capability, we retained a single copy of the ICP34.5 gene, introduced mutations in UL37 to inhibit retrograde axonal transport, and inserted cell-type-specific microRNA (miRNA) target cassettes in HSV-1 genes essential for replication or neurovirulence. Ten miRNA candidates highly expressed in normal tissues and with low or absent expression in malignancies were selected from a comprehensive profile of 800 miRNAs with an emphasis on protection of the nervous system. Among the genes essential for viral replication identified using a small interfering RNA (siRNA) screen, we selected ICP4, ICP27, and UL8 for miRNA attenuation where a single miRNA is sufficient to potently attenuate viral replication. Additionally, a neuron-specific miRNA target cassette was introduced to control ICP34.5 expression. This vector is resistant to type I interferon compared to ICP34.5-deleted oncolytic HSVs, and in cancer cell lines, the oncolytic activity of the modified vector is equivalent to its parental virus. In vivo, this vector potently inhibits tumor growth while being well tolerated, even at high intravenous doses, compared to parental wild-type HSV-1.
Project description:<h4>Background</h4>Oncolytic herpes simplex virus (HSV) vectors that specifically replicate in and kill tumor cells sparing normal cells are a promising cancer therapy. Traditionally, recombinant HSV vectors have been generated through homologous recombination between the HSV genome and a recombination plasmid, which usually requires laborious screening or selection and can take several months. Recent advances in bacterial artificial chromosome (BAC) technology have enabled cloning of the whole HSV genome as a BAC plasmid and subsequent manipulation in E. coli. Thus, we sought a method to generate recombinant oncolytic HSV vectors more easily and quickly using BAC technology.<h4>Results</h4>We have developed an HSV-BAC system, termed the Flip-Flop HSV-BAC system, for the rapid generation of oncolytic HSV vectors. This system has the following features: (i) two site-specific recombinases, Cre and FLPe, are used sequentially to integrate desired sequences and to excise the BAC sequences, respectively; and (ii) the size of the HSV-BAC-insert genome exceeds the packaging limit of HSV so only correctly recombined virus grows efficiently. We applied this to the construction of an HSV-BAC plasmid that can be used for the generation of transcriptionally-targeted HSV vectors. BAC sequences were recombined into the UL39 gene of HSV ICP4-deletion mutant d120 to generate M24-BAC virus, from which HSV-BAC plasmid pM24-BAC was isolated. An ICP4 expression cassette driven by an exogenous promoter was re-introduced to pM24-BAC by Cre-mediated recombination and nearly pure preparations of recombinant virus were obtained typically in two weeks. Insertion of the ICP4 coding sequence alone did not restore viral replication and was only minimally better than an ICP4-null construct, whereas insertion of a CMVIE promoter-ICP4 transgene (bM24-CMV) efficiently drove viral replication. The levels of bM24-CMV replication in tumor cells varied considerably compared to hrR3 (UL39 mutant).<h4>Conclusion</h4>Our Flip-Flop HSV-BAC system enables rapid generation of HSV vectors carrying transgene inserts. By introducing a tumor-specific-promoter-driven ICP4 cassette into pM24-BAC using this system, one should be able to generate transcriptionally-targeted oncolytic HSV vectors. We believe this system will greatly facilitate the screening of a plethora of clinically useful tumor-specific promoters in the context of oncolytic HSV vectors.
Project description:During primary infection of its human host, Herpes Simplex Virus Type-1 (HSV-1) establishes latency in neurons where the viral genome is maintained in a circular form associated with nucleosomes in a chromatin configration. During latency, most viral genes are silenced, although the molecular mechanisms responsible for this are unclear. We hypothesized that neuronal factors repress HSV-1 gene expression during latency. A search of the HSV-1 DNA sequence for potential regulatory elements identified a Repressor Element-1/Neuronal Restrictive Silencer Element (RE-1/NRSE) located between HSV-1 genes ICP22 and ICP4. We predicted that the Repressor Element Silencing Transcription Factor/Neuronal Restrictive Silencer Factor (REST/NRSF) regulates expression of ICP22 and ICP4.Transient cotransfection indicated that REST/NRSF inhibited the activity of both promoters. In contrast, cotransfection of a mutant form of REST/NRSF encoding only the DNA-binding domain of the protein resulted in less inhibition. Stably transformed cell lines containing episomal reporter plasmids with a chromatin structure showed that REST/NRSF specifically inhibited the ICP4 promoter, but not the ICP22 promoter. REST/NRSF inhibition of the ICP4 promoter was reversed by histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitor Trichostatin A (TSA). Additionally, chromatin immuno-precipitation (ChIP) assays indicated that the corepressor CoREST was recruited to the proximity of ICP4 promoter and that acetylation of histone H4 was reduced in the presence of REST/NRSF.Since the ICP4 protein is a key transactivator of HSV-1 lytic cycle genes, these results suggest that REST/NRSF may have an important role in the establishment and/or maintenance of HSV-1 gene silencing during latency by targeting ICP4 expression.
Project description:To understand complex biological systems, such as the development of multicellular organisms, it is important to characterize the gene expression dynamics. However, there is currently no universal technique for targeted insertion of reporter genes and quantitative imaging in multicellular model systems. Recently, genome editing using zinc-finger nucleases (ZFNs) has been reported in several models. ZFNs consist of a zinc-finger DNA-binding array with the nuclease domain of the restriction enzyme FokI and facilitate targeted transgene insertion. In this study, we successfully inserted a GFP reporter cassette into the HpEts1 gene locus of the sea urchin, Hemicentrotus pulcherrimus. We achieved this insertion by injecting eggs with a pair of ZFNs for HpEts1 with a targeting donor construct that contained ?1-kb homology arms and a 2A-histone H2B-GFP cassette. We increased the efficiency of the ZFN-mediated targeted transgene insertion by in situ linearization of the targeting donor construct and cointroduction of an mRNA for a dominant-negative form of HpLig4, which encodes the H. pulcherrimus homolog of DNA ligase IV required for error-prone nonhomologous end joining. We measured the fluorescence intensity of GFP at the single-cell level in living embryos during development and found that there was variation in HpEts1 expression among the primary mesenchyme cells. These findings demonstrate the feasibility of ZFN-mediated targeted transgene insertion to enable quantification of the expression levels of endogenous genes during development in living sea urchin embryos.
Project description:Transgenesis of human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs) can enable and empower a variety of studies in stem cell research, including lineage tracing and functional genetics studies. While in recent years much progress has been made in the development of tools for gene targeting, little attention has been given to the identification of sites in the human genome where transgenes can be inserted and reliably expressed. In order to find human genomic sites capable of supporting long-term and high-level transgene expression in hPSCs, we performed a lentiviral screen in human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs). We isolated 40 iPSC clones each harboring a single vector copy and characterized the level of transgene expression afforded by each unique integration site. We selected one clone, LiPS-A3 with an integration site in chromosome 15 maintaining robust expression without silencing and demonstrate that different transgenes can be inserted therein rapidly and efficiently through recombinase-mediated cassette exchange (RMCE). The LiPS-A3 line can greatly facilitate the insertion of reporter and other genes in hPSCs. Targeting transgenes in the LiPS-A3S genomic locus can find broad applications in stem cell research and possibly cell and gene therapy.