Background: Lentiviral vectors with broad tropism are one of the most promising gene delivery systems capable of efficiently delivering genes of interest into both dividing and non-dividing cells while maintaining long-term transgene expression. However, there are needs for developing lentiviral vectors with the capability to deliver genes to specific cell types, thus reducing the "off-target" effect of gene therapy. In the present study, we investigated the possibility of engineering the fusion-active domain of a fusogenic molecule (FM) with the aim to improve targeted transduction of lentiviral vectors co-displaying an anti-CD20 antibody (alphaCD20) and a FM.
Results: Specific mutations were introduced into the fusion domain of a binding-deficient Sindbis virus glycoprotein to generate several mutant FMs. Lentiviral vectors incorporated with alphaCD20 and one of the engineered FMs were successfully produced and demonstrated to be able to preferentially deliver genes to CD-20-expressing cells. Lentiviral vectors bearing engineered FMs exhibited 8 to 17-fold enhanced transduction towards target cells as compared to the parental FM. Different levels of enhancement were observed for the different engineered FMs. A pH-dependent study of vector transduction showed that the broader pH range of the engineered FM is a possible mechanism for the resulted increase in transduction efficiency.
Conclusion: The fusion domain of Sindbis virus glycoprotein is amenable for engineering and the engineered proteins provide elevated capacity to mediate lentiviral vectors for targeted transduction. Our data suggests that application of such an engineering strategy can optimize the two-molecular targeting method of lentiviral vectors for gene delivery to predetermined cells.