Background: A number of gene therapy applications would benefit from vectors capable of expressing multiple genes. In this study we explored the feasibility and efficiency of expressing two or three transgenes in HIV-1 based lentiviral vector. Bicistronic and tricistronic self-inactivating lentiviral vectors were constructed employing the internal ribosomal entry site (IRES) sequence of encephalomyocarditis virus (EMCV) and/or foot-and-mouth disease virus (FMDV) cleavage factor 2A. We employed enhanced green fluorescent protein (eGFP), O6-methylguanine-DNA-methyltransferase (MGMT), and homeobox transcription factor HOXB4 as model genes and their expression was detected by appropriate methods including fluorescence microscopy, flow cytometry, immunocytochemistry, biochemical assay, and western blotting. Results: All the multigene vectors produced high titer virus and were able to simultaneously express two or three transgenes in transduced cells. However, the level of expression of individual transgenes varied depending on: the transgene itself; its position within the construct; the total number of transgenes expressed; the strategy used for multigene expression and the average copy number of pro-viral insertions. Notably, at limiting MOI, the expression of eGFP in a bicistronic vector based on 2A was ∼4 times greater than that of an IRES based vector. Conclusion: The small and efficient 2A sequence can be used alone or in combination with an IRES for the construction of multicistronic lentiviral vectors which can express encoded transgenes at functionally relevant levels in cells containing an average of one pro-viral insert.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Infectious Diseases