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1.  Targeted genome editing by lentiviral protein transduction of zinc-finger and TAL-effector nucleases 
eLife  2014;3:e01911.
Future therapeutic use of engineered site-directed nucleases, like zinc-finger nucleases (ZFNs) and transcription activator-like effector nucleases (TALENs), relies on safe and effective means of delivering nucleases to cells. In this study, we adapt lentiviral vectors as carriers of designer nuclease proteins, providing efficient targeted gene disruption in vector-treated cell lines and primary cells. By co-packaging pairs of ZFN proteins with donor RNA in ‘all-in-one’ lentiviral particles, we co-deliver ZFN proteins and the donor template for homology-directed repair leading to targeted DNA insertion and gene correction. Comparative studies of ZFN activity in a predetermined target locus and a known nearby off-target locus demonstrate reduced off-target activity after ZFN protein transduction relative to conventional delivery approaches. Additionally, TALEN proteins are added to the repertoire of custom-designed nucleases that can be delivered by protein transduction. Altogether, our findings generate a new platform for genome engineering based on efficient and potentially safer delivery of programmable nucleases.
eLife digest
Altering the genetic code of a living organism to produce certain desirable outcomes is the goal of genetic engineering. The field builds on a long history of human attempts to alter genetics, from selective breeding of crops and livestock to genetically modified organisms and gene therapies. Researchers routinely use gene editing to create ‘knock-out’ mice in which a particular gene is turned off: the researchers can learn more about the function of this gene by watching what happens when it is absent.
As gene editing techniques have grown more sophisticated, they have become an increasingly promising tool for treating diseases that are caused by gene mutations. The aim of this work is to replace faulty genes with genes that work properly. However, it has been difficult to adapt genetic engineering techniques so that they can be used safely in humans.
Scientists have created customized enzymes called nucleases that can remove specific genes, but it has been a challenge to get these nucleases into cells in the first place. A virus can be used to deliver the genes that encode these nucleases into the DNA of a cell, but this approach can lead to the production of too many nucleases and to the removal of more genes than intended.
Now Cai et al. have developed a ‘hit-and-run’ method for getting the nucleases into cells and making them active only for a short period of time. This method involves using a virus to deliver two different nucleases to a cell. Once inside the cell, the viruses released the nucleases, which were able to remove up to one-quarter of their gene targets, with relatively few errors, in the time that they were active.
Next, Cai et al. added gene patches—new genes to replace those removed by the nucleases—to the viruses. This ‘cut and patch’ strategy was successful in up to 8% of the treated cells. The results also suggest that this approach is safer than other gene-editing techniques.
PMCID: PMC3996624  PMID: 24843011
protein transduction; zinc-finger nucleases; transcription activator-like effector nucleases; lentiviral vector; Gag; human; viruses
2.  Driving DNA transposition by lentiviral protein transduction 
Mobile Genetic Elements  2014;4:e29591.
Gene vectors derived from DNA transposable elements have become powerful molecular tools in biomedical research and are slowly moving into the clinic as carriers of therapeutic genes. Conventional uses of DNA transposon-based gene vehicles rely on the intracellular production of the transposase protein from transfected nucleic acids. The transposase mediates mobilization of the DNA transposon, which is typically provided in the context of plasmid DNA. In recent work, we established lentiviral protein transduction from Gag precursors as a new strategy for direct delivery of the transposase protein. Inspired by the natural properties of infecting viruses to carry their own enzymes, we loaded lentivirus-derived particles not only with vector genomes carrying the DNA transposon vector but also with hundreds of transposase subunits. Such particles were found to drive efficient transposition of the piggyBac transposable element in a range of different cell types, including primary cells, and offer a new transposase delivery approach that guarantees short-term activity and limits potential cytotoxicity. DNA transposon vectors, originally developed and launched as a non-viral alternative to viral integrating vectors, have truly become viral. Here, we briefly review our findings and speculate on the perspectives and potential advantages of transposase delivery by lentiviral protein transduction.
PMCID: PMC4092313  PMID: 25057443
DNA transposition; protein transduction; piggyBac; Sleeping Beauty; lentiviral vector; IDLV
3.  Suppression of microRNAs by dual-targeting and clustered Tough Decoy inhibitors 
RNA Biology  2013;10(3):406-414.
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are ubiquitous regulators of gene expression that contribute to almost any cellular process. Methods for managing of miRNA activity are attracting increasing attention in relation to diverse experimental and therapeutic applications. DNA-encoded miRNA inhibitors expressed from plasmid or virus-based vectors provide persistent miRNA suppression and options of tissue-directed micromanaging. In this report, we explore the potential of exploiting short, hairpin-shaped RNAs for simultaneous suppression of two or more miRNAs. Based on the “Tough Decoy” (TuD) design, we create dual-targeting hairpins carrying two miRNA recognition sites and demonstrate potent co-suppression of different pairs of unrelated miRNAs by a single DNA-encoded inhibitor RNA. In addition, enhanced miRNA suppression is achieved by expression of RNA polymerase II-transcribed inhibitors carrying clustered TuD hairpins with up to a total of eight miRNA recognition sites. Notably, by expressing clustered TuD inhibitors harboring a single recognition site for each of a total of six miRNAs, we document robust parallel suppression of multiple miRNAs by inhibitor RNA molecules encoded by a single expression cassette. These findings unveil a new potential of TuD-based miRNA inhibitors and pave the way for standardizing synchronized suppression of families or clusters of miRNAs.
PMCID: PMC3672284  PMID: 23324610
post-transcriptional gene regulation; microRNA inhibition; Tough Decoy; TuD; miRNA
4.  Mobilization of DNA transposable elements from lentiviral vectors 
Mobile Genetic Elements  2011;1(2):139-144.
With the Sleeping Beauty (SB) DNA transposon, a reconstructed Tc1/mariner element, as the driving force, DNA transposable elements have emerged as new gene delivery vectors with therapeutic potential. The bipartite transposon vector system consists of a transposon vector carrying the transgene and a source of the transposase that catalyzes transposon mobilization. The components of the system are typically residing on separate plasmids that are transfected into cells or tissues of interest. We have recently shown that SB vector technology can be successfully combined with lentiviral delivery. Hence, SB transposons are efficiently mobilized from HIV-based integrase-defective lentiviral vectors by the hyperactive SB100X transposase, leading to the genomic insertion of lentivirally delivered DNA in a reaction controlled by a nonviral integration machinery. This new technology combines the better of two vector worlds and leads to integration profiles that are significantly altered and potentially safer relative to conventional lentiviral vectors. In this short commentary, we discuss our recent findings and the road ahead for hybrid lentivirus-transposon vectors.
PMCID: PMC3190313  PMID: 22016863
Sleeping Beauty; DNA transposition; lentiviral vector; IDLV; integration profiling
5.  Complementarity-directed RNA dimer-linkage promotes retroviral recombination in vivo 
Nucleic Acids Research  2004;32(1):102-114.
Retroviral particles contain a dimeric RNA genome, which serves as template for the generation of double-stranded DNA by reverse transcription. Transfer between RNA strands during DNA synthesis is governed by both sequence similarity between templates and structural features of the dimeric RNA. A kissing hairpin, believed to facilitate intermolecular recognition and dimer formation, was previously found to be a preferred site for recombination. To investigate if hairpin loop–loop-complementarity is the primary determinant for this recombination preference, we have devised a novel 5′ leader recombination assay based upon co-packaging of two wild-type or loop-modified murine leukemia virus vector RNAs. We found that insertion of an alternative palindromic loop in one of the two vectors disrupted site-directed template switching, whereas site-specificity was restored between vectors with complementary non-wild-type palindromes. By pairing vector RNAs that contained identical non-palindromic loop motifs and that were unlikely to interact by loop–loop kissing, we found no preference for recombination at the kissing hairpin site. Of vector pairs designed to interact through base pairing of non-palindromic loop motifs, we could in one case restore hairpin-directed template switching, in spite of the reduced sequence identity, whereas another pair failed to support hairpin- directed recombination. However, analyses of in vitro RNA dimerization of all studied vector combinations showed a good correlation between efficient dimer formation between loop-modified viral RNAs and in vivo cDNA transfer at the kissing hairpin. Our findings demonstrate that complementarity between wild-type or non-wild-type hairpin kissing loops is essential but not sufficient for site-specific 5′ leader recombination and lend further support to the hypothesis that a specific ‘kissing’ loop–loop interaction is guided by complementary sequences and maintained within the mature dimeric RNA of retroviruses.
PMCID: PMC373270  PMID: 14715920
6.  DNA transposon-based gene vehicles - scenes from an evolutionary drive 
DNA transposons are primitive genetic elements which have colonized living organisms from plants to bacteria and mammals. Through evolution such parasitic elements have shaped their host genomes by replicating and relocating between chromosomal loci in processes catalyzed by the transposase proteins encoded by the elements themselves. DNA transposable elements are constantly adapting to life in the genome, and self-suppressive regulation as well as defensive host mechanisms may assist in buffering ‘cut-and-paste’ DNA mobilization until accumulating mutations will eventually restrict events of transposition. With the reconstructed Sleeping Beauty DNA transposon as a powerful engine, a growing list of transposable elements with activity in human cells have moved into biomedical experimentation and preclinical therapy as versatile vehicles for delivery and genomic insertion of transgenes. In this review, we aim to link the mechanisms that drive transposon evolution with the realities and potential challenges we are facing when adapting DNA transposons for gene transfer. We argue that DNA transposon-derived vectors may carry inherent, and potentially limiting, traits of their mother elements. By understanding in detail the evolutionary journey of transposons, from host colonization to element multiplication and inactivation, we may better exploit the potential of distinct transposable elements. Hence, parallel efforts to investigate and develop distinct, but potent, transposon-based vector systems will benefit the broad applications of gene transfer. Insight and clever optimization have shaped new DNA transposon vectors, which recently debuted in the first DNA transposon-based clinical trial. Learning from an evolutionary drive may help us create gene vehicles that are safer, more efficient, and less prone for suppression and inactivation.
PMCID: PMC3878927  PMID: 24320156
7.  DNA transposition by protein transduction of the piggyBac transposase from lentiviral Gag precursors 
Nucleic Acids Research  2013;42(4):e28.
DNA transposon-based vectors have emerged as gene vehicles with a wide biomedical and therapeutic potential. So far, genomic insertion of such vectors has relied on the co-delivery of genetic material encoding the gene-inserting transposase protein, raising concerns related to persistent expression, insertional mutagenesis and cytotoxicity. This report describes potent DNA transposition achieved by direct delivery of transposase protein. By adapting integrase-deficient lentiviral particles (LPs) as carriers of the hyperactive piggyBac transposase protein (hyPBase), we demonstrate rates of DNA transposition that are comparable with the efficiency of a conventional plasmid-based strategy. Embedded in the Gag polypeptide, hyPBase is robustly incorporated into LPs and liberated from the viral proteins by the viral protease during particle maturation. We demonstrate lentiviral co-delivery of the transposase protein and vector RNA carrying the transposon sequence, allowing robust DNA transposition in a variety of cell types. Importantly, this novel delivery method facilitates a balanced cellular uptake of hyPBase, as shown by confocal microscopy, and allows high-efficiency production of clones harboring a single transposon insertion. Our findings establish engineered LPs as a new tool for transposase delivery. We believe that protein transduction methods will increase applicability and safety of DNA transposon-based vector technologies.
PMCID: PMC3936723  PMID: 24270790
8.  U20 Is Responsible for Human Herpesvirus 6B Inhibition of Tumor Necrosis Factor Receptor-Dependent Signaling and Apoptosis 
Journal of Virology  2012;86(21):11483-11492.
The immune system targets virus-infected cells by different means. One of the essential antiviral mechanisms is apoptosis induced by ligation of tumor necrosis factor receptor 1 (TNFR1). This receptor can be activated by tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α), which upon binding to TNFR1 induces the assembly of first an inflammatory and later a proapoptotic signaling complex. Here, we report that infection by human herpesvirus 6B (HHV-6B) inhibited poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP) cleavage, caspase 3 and 8 activation, and IκBα Ser-32 phosphorylation downstream of TNFR1, indicating inhibition of both the inflammatory and apoptotic signaling pathways. We identified a hitherto uncharacterized viral protein, U20, as sufficient for mediating this inhibition. U20 was shown to locate to the cell membrane, and overexpression inhibited PARP cleavage, caspase 3 and 8 activation, IκBα Ser-32 phosphorylation, and NF-κB transcriptional activity. Moreover, small interfering RNA (siRNA) knockdown of U20 demonstrated that the protein is necessary for HHV-6B-mediated inhibition of TNFR signaling during infection. These results suggest an important novel function of U20 as a viral immune evasion protein during HHV-6B infection.
PMCID: PMC3486335  PMID: 22896603
9.  Efficient Sleeping Beauty DNA Transposition From DNA Minicircles 
DNA transposon-based vectors have emerged as new potential delivery tools in therapeutic gene transfer. Such vectors are now showing promise in hematopoietic stem cells and primary human T cells, and clinical trials with transposon-engineered cells are on the way. However, the use of plasmid DNA as a carrier of the vector raises safety concerns due to the undesirable administration of bacterial sequences. To optimize vectors based on the Sleeping Beauty (SB) DNA transposon for clinical use, we examine here SB transposition from DNA minicircles (MCs) devoid of the bacterial plasmid backbone. Potent DNA transposition, directed by the hyperactive SB100X transposase, is demonstrated from MC donors, and the stable transfection rate is significantly enhanced by expressing the SB100X transposase from MCs. The stable transfection rate is inversely related to the size of circular donor, suggesting that a MC-based SB transposition system benefits primarily from an increased cellular uptake and/or enhanced expression which can be observed with DNA MCs. DNA transposon and transposase MCs are easily produced, are favorable in size, do not carry irrelevant DNA, and are robust substrates for DNA transposition. In accordance, DNA MCs should become a standard source of DNA transposons not only in therapeutic settings but also in the daily use of the SB system.
PMCID: PMC3586802  PMID: 23443502
antibiotic resistance marker; DNA transposition; minicircle; plasmid backbone; Sleeping Beauty
10.  Generation of minipigs with targeted transgene insertion by recombinase-mediated cassette exchange (RMCE) and somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) 
Transgenic Research  2012;22(4):709-723.
Targeted transgenesis using site-specific recombinases is an attractive method to create genetically modified animals as it allows for integration of the transgene in a pre-selected transcriptionally active genomic site. Here we describe the application of recombinase-mediated cassette exchange (RMCE) in cells from a Göttingen minipig with four RMCE acceptor loci, each containing a green fluorescence protein (GFP) marker gene driven by a human UbiC promoter. The four RMCE acceptor loci segregated independent of each other, and expression profiles could be determined in various tissues. Using minicircles in RMCE in fibroblasts with all four acceptor loci and followed by SCNT, we produced piglets with a single copy of a transgene incorporated into one of the transcriptionally active acceptor loci. The transgene, consisting of a cDNA of the Alzheimer’s disease-causing gene PSEN1M146I driven by an enhanced human UbiC promoter, had an expression profile in various tissues similar to that of the GFP marker gene. The results show that RMCE can be done in a pre-selected transcriptionally active acceptor locus for targeted transgenesis in pigs.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s11248-012-9671-6) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC3712138  PMID: 23111619
RMCE; Sleeping Beauty; SCNT; Targeted transgenesis; Transgenic pigs; Disease models
11.  The Impact of cHS4 Insulators on DNA Transposon Vector Mobilization and Silencing in Retinal Pigment Epithelium Cells 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(10):e48421.
DNA transposons have become important vectors for efficient non-viral integration of transgenes into genomic DNA. The Sleeping Beauty (SB), piggyBac (PB), and Tol2 transposable elements have distinct biological properties and currently represent the most promising transposon systems for animal transgenesis and gene therapy. A potential obstacle, however, for persistent function of integrating vectors is transcriptional repression of the element and its genetic cargo. In this study we analyze the insulating effect of the 1.2-kb 5′-HS4 chicken β-globin (cHS4) insulator element in the context of SB, PB, and Tol2 transposon vectors. By examining transgene expression from genomically inserted transposon vectors encoding a marker gene driven by a silencing-prone promoter, we detect variable levels of transcriptional silencing for the three transposon systems in retinal pigment epithelium cells. Notably, the PB system seems less vulnerable to silencing. Incorporation of cHS4 insulator sequences into the transposon vectors results in 2.2-fold and 1.5-fold increased transgene expression levels for insulated SB and PB vectors, respectively, but an improved persistency of expression was not obtained for insulated transgenes. Colony formation assays and quantitative excision assays unveil enhanced SB transposition efficiencies by the inclusion of the cHS4 element, resulting in a significant increase in the stable transfection rate for insulated SB transposon vectors in human cell lines. Our findings reveal a positive impact of cHS4 insulator inclusion for SB and PB vectors in terms of increased transgene expression levels and improved SB stable transfection rates, but also the lack of a long-term protective effect of the cHS4 insulator against progressive transgene silencing in retinal pigment epithelium cells.
PMCID: PMC3482222  PMID: 23110238
12.  Development of Transgenic Cloned Pig Models of Skin Inflammation by DNA Transposon-Directed Ectopic Expression of Human β1 and α2 Integrin 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(5):e36658.
Integrins constitute a superfamily of transmembrane signaling receptors that play pivotal roles in cutaneous homeostasis by modulating cell growth and differentiation as well as inflammatory responses in the skin. Subrabasal expression of integrins α2 and/or β1 entails hyperproliferation and aberrant differentiation of keratinocytes and leads to dermal and epidermal influx of activated T-cells. The anatomical and physiological similarities between porcine and human skin make the pig a suitable model for human skin diseases. In efforts to generate a porcine model of cutaneous inflammation, we employed the Sleeping Beauty DNA transposon system for production of transgenic cloned Göttingen minipigs expressing human β1 or α2 integrin under the control of a promoter specific for subrabasal keratinocytes. Using pools of transgenic donor fibroblasts, cloning by somatic cell nuclear transfer was utilized to produce reconstructed embryos that were subsequently transferred to surrogate sows. The resulting pigs were all transgenic and harbored from one to six transgene integrants. Molecular analyses on skin biopsies and cultured keratinocytes showed ectopic expression of the human integrins and localization within the keratinocyte plasma membrane. Markers of perturbed skin homeostasis, including activation of the MAPK pathway, increased expression of the pro-inflammatory cytokine IL-1α, and enhanced expression of the transcription factor c-Fos, were identified in keratinocytes from β1 and α2 integrin-transgenic minipigs, suggesting the induction of a chronic inflammatory phenotype in the skin. Notably, cellular dysregulation obtained by overexpression of either β1 or α2 integrin occurred through different cellular signaling pathways. Our findings mark the creation of the first cloned pig models with molecular markers of skin inflammation. Despite the absence of an overt psoriatic phenotype, these animals may possess increased susceptibility to severe skin damage-induced inflammation and should be of great potential in studies aiming at the development and refinement of topical therapies for cutaneous inflammation including psoriasis.
PMCID: PMC3349713  PMID: 22590584
13.  A Sleeping Beauty DNA transposon-based genetic sensor for functional screening of vitamin D3 analogues 
BMC Biotechnology  2011;11:33.
Analogues of vitamin D3 are extensively used in the treatment of various illnesses, such as osteoporosis, inflammatory skin diseases, and cancer. Functional testing of new vitamin D3 analogues and formulations for improved systemic and topical administration is supported by sensitive screening methods that allow a comparative evaluation of drug properties. As a new tool in functional screening of vitamin D3 analogues, we describe a genomically integratable sensor for sensitive drug detection. This system facilitates assessment of the pharmacokinetic and pharmadynamic properties of vitamin D3 analogues. The tri-cistronic genetic sensor encodes a drug-sensoring protein, a reporter protein expressed from an activated sensor-responsive promoter, and a resistance marker.
The three expression cassettes, inserted in a head-to-tail orientation in a Sleeping Beauty DNA transposon vector, are efficiently inserted as a single genetic entity into the genome of cells of interest in a reaction catalyzed by the hyperactive SB100X transposase. The applicability of the sensor for screening purposes is demonstrated by the functional comparison of potent synthetic analogues of vitamin D3 designed for the treatment of psoriasis and cancer. In clones of human keratinocytes carrying from a single to numerous insertions of the vitamin D3 sensor, a sensitive sensor read-out is detected upon exposure to even low concentrations of vitamin D3 analogues. In comparative studies, the sensor unveils superior potency of new candidate drugs in comparison with analogues that are currently in clinical use.
Our findings demonstrate the use of the genetic sensor as a tool in first-line evaluation of new vitamin D3 analogues and pave the way for new types of drug delivery studies in sensor-transgenic animals.
PMCID: PMC3083354  PMID: 21473770
14.  Targeting of human interleukin-12B by small hairpin RNAs in xenografted psoriatic skin 
BMC Dermatology  2011;11:5.
Psoriasis is a chronic inflammatory skin disorder that shows as erythematous and scaly lesions. The pathogenesis of psoriasis is driven by a dysregulation of the immune system which leads to an altered cytokine production. Proinflammatory cytokines that are up-regulated in psoriasis include tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNFα), interleukin-12 (IL-12), and IL-23 for which monoclonal antibodies have already been approved for clinical use. We have previously documented the therapeutic applicability of targeting TNFα mRNA for RNA interference-mediated down-regulation by anti-TNFα small hairpin RNAs (shRNAs) delivered by lentiviral vectors to xenografted psoriatic skin. The present report aims at targeting mRNA encoding the shared p40 subunit (IL-12B) of IL-12 and IL-23 by cellular transduction with lentiviral vectors encoding anti-IL12B shRNAs.
Effective anti-IL12B shRNAs are identified among a panel of shRNAs by potency measurements in cultured cells. The efficiency and persistency of lentiviral gene delivery to xenografted human skin are investigated by bioluminescence analysis of skin treated with lentiviral vectors encoding the luciferase gene. shRNA-expressing lentiviral vectors are intradermally injected in xenografted psoriatic skin and the effects of the treatment evaluated by clinical psoriasis scoring, by measurements of epidermal thickness, and IL-12B mRNA levels.
Potent and persistent transgene expression following a single intradermal injection of lentiviral vectors in xenografted human skin is reported. Stable IL-12B mRNA knockdown and reduced epidermal thickness are achieved three weeks after treatment of xenografted psoriatic skin with lentivirus-encoded anti-IL12B shRNAs. These findings mimick the results obtained with anti-TNFα shRNAs but, in contrast to anti-TNFα treatment, anti-IL12B shRNAs do not ameliorate the psoriatic phenotype as evaluated by semi-quantitative clinical scoring and by immunohistological examination.
Our studies consolidate the properties of lentiviral vectors as a tool for potent gene delivery and for evaluation of mRNA targets for anti-inflammatory therapy. However, in contrast to local anti-TNFα treatment, the therapeutic potential of targeting IL-12B at the RNA level in psoriasis is questioned.
PMCID: PMC3058081  PMID: 21352568
15.  Regulated gene insertion by steroid-induced ΦC31 integrase 
Nucleic Acids Research  2008;36(11):e67.
Nonviral integration systems are widely used genetic tools in transgenesis and play increasingly important roles in strategies for therapeutic gene transfer. Methods to efficiently regulate the activity of transposases and site-specific recombinases have important implications for their spatiotemporal regulation in live transgenic animals as well as for studies of their applicability as safe vectors for genetic therapy. In this report, strategies for posttranslational induction of a variety of gene-inserting proteins are investigated. An engineered hormone-binding domain, derived from the human progesterone receptor, hPR891, and specifically recognized by the synthetic steroid mifepristone, is fused to the Sleeping Beauty, Frog Prince, piggyBac and Tol2 transposases as well as to the Flp and ΦC31 recombinases. By analyzing mifepristone-directed inducibility of gene insertion in cultured human cells, efficient posttranslational regulation of the Flp recombinase and the ΦC31 integrase is documented. In addition, fusion of the ΦC31 integrase with the ERT2 modified estrogen receptor hormone-binding domain results in a protein, which is inducible by a factor of 22-fold and retains 75% of the activity of the wild-type protein. These inducible ΦC31 integrase systems are important new tools in transgenesis and in safety studies of the ΦC31 integrase for gene therapy applications.
PMCID: PMC2441784  PMID: 18499713
16.  Postintegrative Gene Silencing within the Sleeping Beauty Transposition System▿  
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2007;27(24):8824-8833.
The Sleeping Beauty (SB) transposon represents an important vehicle for in vivo gene delivery because it can efficiently and stably integrate into mammalian genomes. In this report, we examined transposon expression in human cells using a novel nonselective fluorescence-activated cell sorter-based method and discovered that SB integrates ∼20 times more frequently than previously reported within systems that were dependent on transgene expression and likely subject to postintegrative gene silencing. Over time, phenotypic analysis of clonal integrants demonstrated that SB undergoes additional postintegrative gene silencing, which varied based on the promoter used for transgene expression. Molecular and biochemical studies suggested that transposon silencing was influenced by DNA methylation and histone deacetylation because both 5-aza-2′-deoxycytidine and trichostatin A partially rescued transgene silencing in clonal cell lines. Collectively, these data reveal the existence of a multicomponent postintegrative gene silencing network that efficiently targets invading transposon sequences for transcriptional silencing in mammalian cells.
PMCID: PMC2169419  PMID: 17938204
17.  Mutational Analysis of the N-Terminal DNA-Binding Domain of Sleeping Beauty Transposase: Critical Residues for DNA Binding and Hyperactivity in Mammalian Cells 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2004;24(20):9239-9247.
The N-terminal domain of the Sleeping Beauty (SB) transposase mediates transposon DNA binding, subunit multimerization, and nuclear translocation in vertebrate cells. For this report, we studied the relative contributions of 95 different residues within this multifunctional domain by large-scale mutational analysis. We found that each of four amino acids (leucine 25, arginine 36, isoleucine 42, and glycine 59) contributes to DNA binding in the context of the N-terminal 123 amino acids of SB transposase, as indicated by electrophoretic mobility shift analysis, and to functional activity of the full-length transposase, as determined by a quantitative HeLa cell-based transposition assay. Moreover, we show that amino acid substitutions within either the putative oligomerization domain (L11A, L18A, L25A, and L32A) or the nuclear localization signal (K104A and R105A) severely impair its ability to mediate DNA transposition in mammalian cells. In contrast, each of 10 single amino acid changes within the bipartite DNA-binding domain is shown to greatly enhance SB's transpositional activity in mammalian cells. These hyperactive mutations functioned synergistically when combined and are shown to significantly improve transposase affinity for transposon end sequences. Finally, we show that enhanced DNA-binding activity results in improved cleavage kinetics, increased SB element mobilization from host cell chromosomes, and dramatically improved gene transfer capabilities of SB in vivo in mice. These studies provide important insights into vertebrate transposon biology and indicate that Sleeping Beauty can be readily improved for enhanced genetic research applications in mammals.
PMCID: PMC517896  PMID: 15456893
18.  Mutations of the Kissing-Loop Dimerization Sequence Influence the Site Specificity of Murine Leukemia Virus Recombination In Vivo 
Journal of Virology  2000;74(2):600-610.
The genetic information of retroviruses is retained within a dimeric RNA genome held together by intermolecular RNA-RNA interactions near the 5′ ends. Coencapsidation of retrovirus-derived RNA molecules allows frequent template switching of the virus-encoded reverse transcriptase during DNA synthesis in newly infected cells. We have previously shown that template shifts within the 5′ leader of murine leukemia viruses occur preferentially within the kissing stem-loop motif, a cis element crucial for in vitro RNA dimer formation. By use of a forced recombination approach based on single-cycle transfer of Akv murine leukemia virus-based vectors harboring defective primer binding site sequences, we now report that modifications of the kissing-loop structure, ranging from a deletion of the entire sequence to introduction of a single point mutation in the loop motif, significantly disturb site specificity of recombination within the highly structured 5′ leader region. In addition, we find that an intact kissing-loop sequence favors optimal RNA encapsidation and vector transduction. Our data are consistent with the kissing-loop dimerization model and suggest that a direct intermolecular RNA-RNA interaction, here mediated by palindromic loop sequences within the mature genomic RNA dimer, facilitates hotspot template switching during retroviral cDNA synthesis in vivo.
PMCID: PMC111579  PMID: 10623721
19.  The Kissing-Loop Motif Is a Preferred Site of 5′ Leader Recombination during Replication of SL3-3 Murine Leukemia Viruses in Mice 
Journal of Virology  1999;73(11):9614-9618.
A panel of mouse T-cell lymphomas induced by SL3-3 murine leukemia virus (MLV) and three primer binding site mutants thereof (A. H. Lund, J. Schmidt, A. Luz, A. B. Sørensen, M. Duch, and F. S. Pedersen, J. Virol. 73:6117–6122, 1999) were analyzed for the occurrence of recombination between the exogenous input virus and endogenous MLV-like sequences within the 5′ leader region. Evidence of recombination within the region studied was found in 14 of 52 tumors analyzed. Sequence analysis of a ∼330-bp fragment of 44 chimeric proviruses, encompassing the U5, the primer binding site, and the upstream part of the 5′ untranslated region, enabled us to map recombination sites, guided by distinct scattered nucleotide differences. In 30 of 44 analyzed sequences, recombination was mapped to a 33-nucleotide similarity window coinciding with the kissing-loop stem-loop motif implicated in dimerization of the diploid genome. Interestingly, the recombination pattern preference found in replication-competent viruses from T-cell tumors is very similar to the pattern previously reported for retroviral vectors in cell culture experiments. The data therefore sustain the hypothesis that the kissing loop, presumably via a role in RNA dimer formation, constitutes a hot spot for reverse transcriptase-mediated recombination in MLV.
PMCID: PMC112998  PMID: 10516072
20.  Recombination in the 5′ Leader of Murine Leukemia Virus Is Accurate and Influenced by Sequence Identity with a Strong Bias toward the Kissing-Loop Dimerization Region 
Journal of Virology  1998;72(9):6967-6978.
Retroviral recombination occurs frequently during reverse transcription of the dimeric RNA genome. By a forced recombination approach based on the transduction of Akv murine leukemia virus vectors harboring a primer binding site knockout mutation and the entire 5′ untranslated region, we studied recombination between two closely related naturally occurring retroviral sequences. On the basis of 24 independent template switching events within a 481-nucleotide target sequence containing multiple sequence identity windows, we found that shifting from vector RNA to an endogenous retroviral RNA template during minus-strand DNA synthesis occurred within defined areas of the genome and did not lead to misincorporations at the crossover site. The nonrandom distribution of recombination sites did not reflect a bias for specific sites due to selection at the level of marker gene expression. We address whether template switching is affected by the length of sequence identity, by palindromic sequences, and/or by putative stem-loop structures. Sixteen of 24 sites of recombination colocalized with the kissing-loop dimerization region, and we propose that RNA-RNA interactions between palindromic sequences facilitate template switching. We discuss the putative role of the dimerization domain in the overall structure of the reverse-transcribed RNA dimer and note that related mechanisms of template switching may be found in remote RNA viruses.
PMCID: PMC109916  PMID: 9696788
21.  Extended Minus-Strand DNA as Template for R-U5-Mediated Second-Strand Transfer in Recombinational Rescue of Primer Binding Site-Modified Retroviral Vectors 
Journal of Virology  1998;72(3):2519-2525.
We have previously demonstrated recombinational rescue of primer binding site (PBS)-impaired Akv murine leukemia virus-based vectors involving initial priming on endogenous viral sequences and template switching during cDNA synthesis to obtain PBS complementarity in second-strand transfer of reverse transcription (Mikkelsen et al., J. Virol. 70:1439–1447, 1996). By use of the same forced recombination system, we have now found recombinant proviruses of different structures, suggesting that PBS knockout vectors may be rescued through initial priming on endogenous virus RNA, read-through of the mutated PBS during minus-strand synthesis, and subsequent second-strand transfer mediated by the R-U5 complementarity of the plus strand and the extended minus-strand DNA acceptor template. Mechanisms for R-U5-mediated second-strand transfer and its possible role in retrovirus replication and evolution are discussed.
PMCID: PMC109556  PMID: 9499117

Results 1-21 (21)