Background: Retroviral vectors are regularly used to transduce stem cells and their derivatives for experimental and therapeutic purposes. Because these vectors integrate semi-randomly into the cellular genome, analysis of integranated retroviral DNA/host cell DNA junctions (IHJ) facilitates clonality studies of engrafted cells, allowing their differentiation, survival and fate to be tracked. In the case of any adverse events, IHJ analysis can allow the identification of potentially oncogenic integration sites. At present, most measures to assess IHJ are complex, insensitive and may be subject to IHJ selection bias inherent to the technology used.
Methods: We have developed and validated a simple but effective technique for generating libraries of IHJ, which we term flanking-sequence exponential anchored-polymerase chain reaction (FLEA-PCR). Flanking-sequence random anchoring is used as an alternative to restriction enzyme digestion and cassette ligation to allow consistent detection of IHJ and decrease bias.
Results: Individual clones from plasmid libraries can be sequenced and assembled using custom-written software, and FLEA-PCR smears can be analyzed by capillary electrophoresis after digestion with restriction enzymes.
Discussion: This approach can readily analyze complex mixtures of IHJ, allowing localization of these sequences to their genomic sites. This approach should simplify analysis of retroviral integration.