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Eliminating HIV-1 Packaging Sequences from Lentiviral Vector Proviruses Enhances Safety and Expedites Gene Transfer for Gene Therapy

Vink, CA and Counsell, JR and Perocheau, DP and Karda, R and Buckley, SMK and Brugman, MH and Galla, M and Schambach, A and McKay, Tristan and Waddington, SN and Howe, SJ (2017) Eliminating HIV-1 Packaging Sequences from Lentiviral Vector Proviruses Enhances Safety and Expedites Gene Transfer for Gene Therapy. Molecular Therapy, 25 (8). pp. 1790-1804. ISSN 1525-0016

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Abstract

Lentiviral vector genomic RNA requires sequences that partially overlap wild-type HIV-1 gag and env genes for packaging into vector particles. These HIV-1 packaging sequences constitute 19.6% of the wild-type HIV-1 genome and contain functional cis elements that potentially compromise clinical safety. Here, we describe the development of a novel lentiviral vector (LTR1) with a unique genomic structure designed to prevent transfer of HIV-1 packaging sequences to patient cells, thus reducing the total HIV-1 content to just 4.8% of the wildtype genome. This has been achieved by reconfiguring the vector to mediate reverse-transcription with a single strand transfer, instead of the usual two, and in which HIV-1 packaging sequences are not copied. We show that LTR1 vectors offer improved safety in their resistance to remobilization in HIV-1 particles and reduced frequency of splicing into human genes. Following intravenous luciferase vector administration to neonatal mice, LTR1 sustained a higher level of liver transgene expression than an equivalent dose of a standard lentivirus. LTR1 vectors produce reverse-transcription products earlier and start to express transgenes significantly quicker than standard lentiviruses after transduction. Finally, we show that LTR1 is an effective lentiviral gene therapy vector as demonstrated by correction of a mouse hemophilia B model.

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