Abstract

<div><p>Lentiviral vectors are widely used to investigate the biological properties of regulatory proteins and/or of leukaemia-associated oncogenes by stably enforcing their expression in hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells. In these studies it is critical to be able to monitor and/or sort the infected cells, typically via fluorescent proteins encoded by the modified viral genome. The most popular strategy to ensure co-expression of transgene and reporter gene is to insert between these cDNAs an IRES element, thus generating bi-cistronic mRNAs whose transcription is driven by a single promoter. However, while the product of the gene located upstream of the IRES is generally abundantly expressed, the translation of the downstream cDNA (typically encoding the reporter protein) is often inconsistent, which hinders the detection and the isolation of transduced cells. To overcome these limitations, we developed novel lentiviral dual-promoter vectors (named UMG-LV5 and –LV6) where transgene expression is driven by the potent UBC promoter and that of the reporter protein, EGFP, by the minimal regulatory element of the WASP gene. These vectors, harboring two distinct transgenes, were tested in a variety of human haematopoietic cell lines as well as in primary human CD34<sup>+</sup> cells in comparison with the FUIGW vector that contains the expression cassette UBC-transgene-IRES-EGFP. In these experiments both UMG-LV5 and UMG–LV6 yielded moderately lower transgene expression than FUIGW, but dramatically higher levels of EGFP, thereby allowing the easy distinction between transduced and non-transduced cells. An additional construct was produced, in which the cDNA encoding the reporter protein is upstream, and the transgene downstream of the IRES sequence. This vector, named UMG-LV11, proved able to promote abundant expression of both transgene product and EGFP in all cells tested. The UMG-LVs represent therefore useful vectors for gene transfer-based studies in hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells, as well as in non-hematopoietic cells.</p></div

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