Hepatocyte-specific gene expression from integrated lentiviral vectors

Kathryn L. Nash, Bushra Jamil, Alison J. Maguire, Graeme J.M. Alexander, Andrew M.L. Lever

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


Background. For many applications, efficient gene therapy will require long-term, organ-specific therapeutic gene expression. Lentiviral vectors based on HIV-1 are promising gene delivery vehicles due to their ability to integrate transgenes into non-dividing cells. Many experimental vectors express transgenes under the control of the cytomegalovirus (CMV) immediate-early gene promoter. Although this promoter directs strong gene expression in vitro, it may be shut off rapidly in vivo. This study explores the potential of HIV-1-based vectors to transduce hepatocytes and compares gene expression from different promoters in integrated vectors. Methods. HIV-1-based vector plasmids expressing the green fluorescent protein (GFP) under the control of the CMV promoter, the alpha-1 antitrypsin gene promoter or promoters derived from the hepatitis B virus (HBV) genome were used to compare expression in transfected and transduced cell lines. Results. Hepatocyte cell lines differed strikingly in their transfectability. Transduction with replication-deficient HIV-1-based vector particles incorporating the different promoter elements was uniformly effective in hepatocyte and non-hepatocyte lines. However, in hepatocytes, only the CMV, alpha-1 antitrypsin and HBV core but not HBV surface promoters were able to produce GFP expression. Addition of the HBV enhancer 2 element improved the transducing ability of the HBV surface promoter and suppressed expression in non-hepatocytes increasing specificity for hepatocytes. Conclusions. Integrated lentiviral vectors can be used to direct transgene expression in liver cells both promiscuously and specifically. Promoters derived from the alpha-1 antitrypsin gene or HBV are alternatives to the CMV promoter. Inclusion of the HBV enhancer 2 permits strong liver-specific gene expression in vitro.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)974-983
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Gene Medicine
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2004


  • Enhancer
  • Gene therapy
  • Hepatitis B
  • Promoter


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