UNIT 4.22 Alphaviruses: Semliki Forest Virus and Sindbis Virus Vectors for Gene Transfer into Neurons

  1. Markus U. Ehrengruber1,
  2. Kenneth Lundstrom2

Published Online: 1 OCT 2007

DOI: 10.1002/0471142301.ns0422s41

Current Protocols in Neuroscience

Current Protocols in Neuroscience

How to Cite

Ehrengruber, M. U. and Lundstrom, K. 2007. Alphaviruses: Semliki Forest Virus and Sindbis Virus Vectors for Gene Transfer into Neurons. Current Protocols in Neuroscience. 41:4.22:4.22.1–4.22.24.

Author Information

  1. 1

    Kantonsschule Hohe Promenade, Zurich, Switzerland

  2. 2

    Lutry, Switzerland

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 1 OCT 2007
  2. Published Print: OCT 2007

This is not the most recent version of the article. View current version (1 OCT 2011)


Alphaviral vectors based on Semliki Forest virus and Sindbis virus infect many host cell types, causing rapid and high-level transgene expression. Compared to other viruses used to infect CNS cell and tissue preparations, Semliki Forest virus and Sindbis virus exhibit an outstanding preference for neurons rather than glial cells. High-titer vector generation typically requires biosafety level 1 or 2 containment and occurs in less than 2 days. Wild-type vectors are cytotoxic, permitting short-term transgene expression. However, mutant vectors with decreased cytotoxicity, to prolong host cell survival, have been developed. They also increase transgene expression and cellular coinfection, permitting heteromeric protein expression in individual cells. Other mutants with temperature-dependent control of transgene expression and altered host cell preference to target interneurons and astrocytes rather than principal neurons are available. Because of these advantages, alphaviral vectors are increasingly used in neurobiological and other studies, including structural biology, vaccine development, and cancer treatment. Curr. Protoc. Neurosci. 41:4.22.1-4.22.24. © 2007 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc.


  • Semliki Forest virus;
  • Sindbis virus;
  • baby hamster kidney 21 (BHK) cell;
  • hippocampal neuron;
  • in vitro transcription