The Impact of cHS4 Insulators on DNA Transposon Vector Mobilization and Silencing in Retinal Pigment Epithelium Cells

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Abstract

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.

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Sharma, N., Hollensen, A. K., Bak, R. O., Staunstrup, N. H., Schrøder, L. D., & Mikkelsen, J. G. (2012). The Impact of cHS4 Insulators on DNA Transposon Vector Mobilization and Silencing in Retinal Pigment Epithelium Cells. PLoS ONE, 7(10). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0048421

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