Effect of osmotic pressure on the production of retroviral vectors: Enhancement in vector stability

Biotechnol Bioeng. 2006 Jun 5;94(2):322-9. doi: 10.1002/bit.20847.


The use of Moloney murine leukaemia virus (MoMLV) derived retroviral vectors in gene therapy requires the production of high titer preparations. However, obtaining high titers of infective MoMLV retroviral vectors is difficult due to the vector inherent instability. In this work the effect of the cell culture medium osmotic pressure upon the virus stability was studied. The osmolality of standard medium was raised from 335 up to 500 mOsm/kg using either ionic (sodium chloride) or non-ionic osmotic agents (sorbitol and fructose). It was observed that, independently of the osmotic agent used, the infectious vector inactivation rate was inversely correlated with the osmolality used in the production media; therefore, the use of high medium osmolalities enhanced vector stability. For production purposes a balance must be struck between cell yield, cell productivity and retroviral stability. From the conditions tested herein sorbitol addition, ensuring osmolalities between 410 and 450 mOsm/kg, yields the best production conditions; NaCl hampered the viral infectious production while fructose originates lower cell yields. Lipid extractions were performed for cholesterol and phospholipid analyses showing that more stable viral vectors had a 10% reduction in the cholesterol content. A similar reduction in cholesterol was observed in the producer cells. A detailed analysis of the major phospholipids composition, type and fatty acid content, by mass spectrometry did not show significant changes, confirming the decrease in the cholesterol to phospholipids ratio in the viral membrane as the major reason for the increased vector stability.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cell Line
  • Cholesterol / analysis
  • Culture Media / chemistry
  • Fructose / chemistry
  • Fructose / pharmacology*
  • Genetic Vectors / chemistry
  • Genetic Vectors / drug effects*
  • Genetic Vectors / physiology
  • HCT116 Cells
  • Humans
  • Osmolar Concentration
  • Osmotic Pressure / drug effects
  • Phospholipids / analysis
  • Retroviridae / chemistry
  • Retroviridae / drug effects*
  • Retroviridae / physiology
  • Sodium Chloride / chemistry
  • Sodium Chloride / pharmacology*
  • Sorbitol / chemistry
  • Sorbitol / pharmacology*


  • Culture Media
  • Phospholipids
  • Fructose
  • Sodium Chloride
  • Sorbitol
  • Cholesterol