The genotoxic potential of retroviral vectors is strongly modulated by vector design and integration site selection in a mouse model of HSC gene therapy.
Authors: Montini E, Cesana D, Schmidt M, Sanvito F, Bartholomae CC, Ranzani M, Benedicenti F, Sergi LS, Ambrosi A, Ponzoni M, Doglioni C, Di Serio C, von Kalle C, Naldini L.
CellNetworks People: von Kalle Christof
Journal: J Clin Invest. 2009 Apr;119(4):964-75.

gamma-Retroviral vectors (gammaRVs), which are commonly used in gene therapy, can trigger oncogenesis by insertional mutagenesis. Here, we have dissected the contribution of vector design and viral integration site selection (ISS) to oncogenesis using an in vivo genotoxicity assay based on transplantation of vector-transduced tumor-prone mouse hematopoietic stem/progenitor cells. By swapping genetic elements between gammaRV and lentiviral vectors (LVs), we have demonstrated that transcriptionally active long terminal repeats (LTRs) are major determinants of genotoxicity even when reconstituted in LVs and that self-inactivating (SIN) LTRs enhance the safety of gammaRVs. By comparing the genotoxicity of vectors with matched active LTRs, we were able to determine that substantially greater LV integration loads are required to approach the same oncogenic risk as gammaRVs. This difference in facilitating oncogenesis is likely to be explained by the observed preferential targeting of cancer genes by gammaRVs. This integration-site bias was intrinsic to gammaRVs, as it was also observed for SIN gammaRVs that lacked genotoxicity in our model. Our findings strongly support the use of SIN viral vector platforms and show that ISS can substantially modulate genotoxicity.