Persistent episomal transgene expression in liver following delivery of a scaffold/matrix attachment region containing non-viral vector

Gene Ther. 2008 Dec;15(24):1593-605. doi: 10.1038/gt.2008.113. Epub 2008 Jul 17.


An ideal gene therapy vector should enable persistent transgene expression without limitations of safety and reproducibility. Here we report the development of a non-viral episomal plasmid DNA (pDNA) vector that appears to fulfil these criteria. This pDNA vector combines a scaffold/matrix attachment region (S/MAR) with a human liver-specific promoter (alpha1-antitrypsin (AAT)) in such a way that long-term expression is enabled in murine liver following hydrodynamic injection. Long-term expression is demonstrated by monitoring the longitudinal luciferase expression profile for up to 6 months by means of in situ bioluminescent imaging. All relevant control pDNA constructs expressing luciferase are unable to sustain significant transgene expression beyond 1 week post-administration. We establish that this shutdown of expression is due to promoter methylation. In contrast, the S/MAR element appears to inhibit methylation of the AAT promoter thereby preventing transgene silencing. Although this vector appears to be maintained as an episome throughout, we have no evidence for its establishment as a replicating entity. We conclude that the combination of a mammalian, tissue-specific promoter with the S/MAR element is sufficient to drive long-term episomal pDNA expression of genes in vivo.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • DNA Methylation / genetics
  • Gene Expression
  • Genetic Therapy / methods*
  • Genetic Vectors / administration & dosage*
  • Genetic Vectors / genetics
  • Genetic Vectors / metabolism
  • Hepatectomy
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Injections
  • Liver / metabolism*
  • Luciferases / analysis
  • Luciferases / genetics
  • Matrix Attachment Regions / genetics*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred Strains
  • Plasmids / administration & dosage*
  • Plasmids / genetics
  • Plasmids / metabolism
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic
  • Time Factors
  • Transfection / methods
  • Transgenes
  • alpha 1-Antitrypsin / genetics*


  • alpha 1-Antitrypsin
  • Luciferases