Pantropic retroviral vectors pseudotyped with vesicular stomatitis virus envelope G protein (VSV-G) are typically produced by transient transfection of the VSV-G expression plasmid because constitutive expression of VSV-G is cytotoxic. To produce pantropic vectors, the VSV-G expression plasmid and the vector plasmid are cotransfected into a packaging cell line, such as 293-gag-pol. Typically, the ratio of VSV-G plasmid to the vector plasmid ranges from 0.33 to 1.0. However, it is not clear that this range is optimal for vector production. In this study we have systematically examined the effect of the ratio of VSV-G plasmid (pVSV-G) to vector plasmid on vector production. For this, 293-gag-pol stable packaging cells were cotransfected with pVSV-G and an enhanced green fluorescent protein- (EGFP-) expressing retroviral vector plasmid (pLTR-EGFP) by use of lipofectamine. Vector was collected following transfection and used to transduce three target cell lines, namely, 3T3 fibroblasts, telomerase-immortalized human diploid fibroblasts (HDF), and the human hepatoma cell line HuH7. Transduction efficiency was evaluated for vectors produced at different pVSV-G:pLTR-EGFP ratios such that the total amount of plasmid transfected into 293-gag-pol cells was kept constant. Our results indicate that transduction efficiency is greatest when the pVSV-G:pLTR-EGFP ratio is substantially below 1.0. For 3T3 and HDF cells, the maximum transduction efficiency was obtained when a ratio of pVSV-G:pLTR-EGFP ranging from 0.053 to 0.2 was used for transfection. The relative magnitude of this effect was greater for lower transduction efficiencies in control cultures. For HuH7 cells, the beneficial effects were smaller than those observed when HDF or 3T3 cells were used. The difference in transduction efficiency for vector produced under various pVSV-G:pLTR-EGFP ratios was not due to differences in the proliferation of packaging cells or target cells. Further characterization showed that the amount of vector RNA relative to p30gag decreased as the ratio of pVSV-G:pLTR-EGFP increased. These results indicate that transduction efficiency increases with increasing levels of vector RNA as long as a minimally sufficient level of pantropic envelope protein is expressed.
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