Histone Modifications Are Associated With the Persistence or Silencing of Vector-Mediated Transgene Expression in Vivo

Mol Ther. 2007 Jul;15(7):1348-55. doi: 10.1038/sj.mt.6300177. Epub 2007 Apr 24.


One of the major obstacles to success in non-viral gene therapy is transcriptional silencing of the DNA vector. The mechanisms underlying gene silencing/repression in mammalian cells are complex and remain unclear. Because changes in chromatin structure and, in particular, histone modifications are involved in transcriptional regulation of endogenous genes, we hypothesized that changes in the pattern of histone modifications were related to the observed transcriptional silencing of exogenous DNA vectors. We used antibodies against specific modified histones to perform chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) analyses on liver lysates from mice transfected with two types of plasmids: (i) DNA minicircles (MCs) devoid of bacterial plasmid backbone DNA, which showed marked persistence of transgene expression, and (ii) their parental plasmids, which were silenced over time. Silencing of the transgene from the parental vectors was accompanied by an increase in heterochromatin-associated histone modifications and a decrease in modifications typically associated with euchromatin. Conversely, the pattern of histone modifications on the MC DNA was consistent with euchromatin. Our data indicates that (i) episomal vectors undergo chromatinization in vivo, and (ii) both persistence and silencing of transgene expression are associated with specific histone modifications.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chromatin / genetics
  • Chromatin Immunoprecipitation
  • DNA / genetics
  • Gene Expression / genetics*
  • Gene Silencing*
  • Genetic Vectors / genetics*
  • Histones / metabolism*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Peptide Elongation Factor 1 / genetics
  • Peptide Elongation Factor 1 / metabolism
  • Plasmids / genetics
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • Time Factors
  • Transgenes / genetics*


  • Chromatin
  • Histones
  • Peptide Elongation Factor 1
  • RNA, Messenger
  • DNA