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Keywords:

  • gene therapy;
  • retroviral vector

Abstract

Retroviral pre-integration complexes (PICs) provide a most efficient mechanism to integrate foreign DNA into cellular chromatin. This has made retrovirus-based vectors a preferred tool for gene delivery in therapeutic settings where the chromosomal integration of a recombinant expression cassette that encodes a protein of interest can lead to a long-lasting correction of monogenetic diseases (so-called gene addition strategy). However, the efficiency of retroviral gene addition comes at the expense of a lack of precision in the choice of the integration site. Insertional mutagenesis with potential activation of proto-oncogenes as a first hit in a multistep scenario of cancer development thus represents one of the major hurdles to a more widespread exploration of gene-based treatments (Kustikova et al, 2010). To date, four clinical trials were reported to be associated with severe adverse reactions induced by insertional mutagenesis in haematopoietic stem and progenitor cells (HSC/P); two targeting the X-linked form of severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID-X1), one targeting chronic granulomatous disease, and most recently another trial exploring gene therapy for the Wiskott–Aldrich-Syndrome. In contrast, in the SCID caused by mutations in the gene encoding the metabolic enzyme adenosine deaminase (ADA), retroviral gene addition so far has been free of such complications. Furthermore, numerous trials using similar gene vectors to transfer genes into mature T cells have not been complicated by clonal outgrowth. This explains the great interest in a deeper understanding of retroviral vector–host interactions in the therapeutic setting of SCID-ADA.