Long-term silencing of retroviral vectors is resistant to reversal by trichostatin A and 5-azacytidine

Gene Ther. 2000 Apr;7(8):653-63. doi: 10.1038/sj.gt.3301155.


One problem limiting the development of long-term gene replacement therapy is gene silencing. A variety of experiments have implicated DNA methylation and histone deacetylation in gene silencing and shown that the agents 5-azacytidine (5-Aza) and trichostatin A (TSA) are able to reverse these effects. To begin to investigate clinically relevant strategies to reverse silencing with these drugs, we transduced the MEL and FDCP-1 hematopoietic cell lines with Moloney murine leukemia virus (MMLV) and Harvey murine sarcoma virus (HMSV)-based retroviral vectors carrying the beta-galactosidase/neomycin resistance fusion gene (beta-geo). Fifty-one clones were isolated under G418 selection over 2 weeks and then allowed to grow without selection as beta-gal activity was monitored over time. More than 80% of these clones showed significant silencing over a period of 70-80 days. The clones were then exposed to a wide range of 5-Aza and TSA concentrations, both alone and in combination, in an effort to reverse silencing. Despite demonstration that the agents were able to decrease DNA methylation and increase histone acetylation, significant reversal of long-term silencing was not seen under any experimental condition. These results suggest that long-term retroviral silencing involves mechanisms in addition to DNA methylation and histone acetylation and that new pharmacologic strategies are needed to overcome the silencing process.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Acetylation
  • Acetyltransferases / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Azacitidine / therapeutic use
  • Cell Line
  • DNA Methylation / drug effects
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Drug Resistance
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / therapeutic use
  • Gene Silencing / drug effects*
  • Genetic Therapy / methods*
  • Genetic Vectors / genetics*
  • Histone Deacetylase Inhibitors*
  • Histones / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Hydroxamic Acids / therapeutic use*
  • Retroviridae / genetics*
  • Treatment Failure
  • beta-Galactosidase / genetics


  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Histone Deacetylase Inhibitors
  • Histones
  • Hydroxamic Acids
  • trichostatin A
  • Acetyltransferases
  • beta-Galactosidase
  • Azacitidine