We have compared the in vitro and in vivo behaviors of a set of isogenic E1- and E1/E4-defective adenoviruses expressing the lacZ gene of Escherichia coli from the Rous sarcoma virus long terminal repeat. Infection of tumor-derived established cell lines of human origin with the doubly defective adenoviruses resulted in (i) a lower replication of the viral backbone that correlated with reduced levels of E2A-specific RNA and protein, (ii) a significant shutoff of late gene and protein expression, and (iii) no apparent virus-induced cytotoxicity. Independently of the extent of the deletion, the additional inactivation of E4 from the viral backbone therefore drastically disabled the virus in vitro, with no apparent effect on transgene expression. A lacZ-transgenic model was used to compare the different recombinant adenoviruses in the livers of C57BL/6 mice. The immune response to the virally encoded beta-galactosidase was minimal in this model, as infusion of the E1-defective adenovirus resulted in a time course of transgene expression that mimicked that in immunodeficient (nu/nu) mice, with very little inflammation and necrosis in the liver. Administration of a doubly defective adenovirus to the transgenic animals led to long-term extrachromosomal persistence of viral DNA in the liver, with no detectable methylation of CpG dinucleotides. However, transient transgene expression was observed independently of the extent of the E4 deletion, suggesting that the choice of the promoter may be critical to maintain transgene expression from these attenuated adenovirus vectors
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