Objective: This study characterizes the distribution of adenoviral genes in the spinal cord after viral vector injection into the sciatic nerve. It also evaluates the ability of repeated adenoviral sciatic nerve injections to prolong gene expression in the spinal cord.
Methods: Rat sciatic nerves were unilaterally coinjected with the retrograde tracer Fluoro-Gold (Fluorochrome, Inc., Denver, CO) and the adenoviral vector Ad5RSVntLacZ. The distribution of adenoviral gene expression in the spinal cord was compared with that of Fluoro-Gold. Next, levels of gene expression in the sciatic nerve and spinal cord were compared after single and repeated injections of Ad5RSVntLacZ. Finally, remote spinal cord gene expression in naive animals was compared with expression in animals that had been pretreated with subcutaneous Ad5RSVntLacZ inoculation.
Results: Viral gene expression was detected in all quadrants of the spinal cord gray matter, whereas Fluoro-Gold was detected only in the ipsilateral ventral horn (n = 5). This remote delivery was blocked by sciatic nerve transection (n = 10). Viral gene expression occurred in the sciatic nerve after both initial and repeated injections, whereas remote gene expression in the spinal cord was observed only after primary sciatic nerve injection (n = 24; P < 0.003). As with repeated sciatic nerve injections, subcutaneous inoculation with Ad5RSVntLacZ blocked subsequent remote spinal cord gene delivery (n = 8; P < 0.05).
Conclusion: Remote viral gene delivery occurs in neurons without direct sciatic nerve projections but is dependent on intact peripheral nerves. Repeated injections fail to boost spinal cord gene expression, because of immune recognition of reinjected virus.