A novel lentivirus for quantitative assessment of gene knockdown in stem cell differentiation

Gene Ther. 2012 Dec;19(12):1123-32. doi: 10.1038/gt.2011.208. Epub 2012 Jan 12.


Loss of gene function is a valuable tool for screening genes in cellular processes including stem cell differentiation differentiation. However, the criteria for evaluating gene knockdown are usually based on end-point analysis and real-time, dynamic information is lacking. To overcome these limitations, we engineered a shRNA encoding LentiViral Dual Promoter vector (shLVDP) that enabled real-time monitoring of mesenchymal stem (MSC) differentiation and simultaneous gene knockdown. In this vector, the activity of the alpha-smooth muscle actin (αSMA) promoter was measured by the expression of a destabilized green fluorescent protein, and was used as an indicator of myogenic differentiation; constitutive expression of discosoma red fluorescent protein was used to measure transduction efficiency and to normalize αSMA promoter activity; and shRNA was encoded by a doxycycline (Dox)-regulatable H1 promoter. Importantly, the normalized promoter activity was independent of lentivirus titer allowing quantitative assessment of gene knockdown. Using this vector, we evaluated 11 genes in the TGF-β1 or Rho signaling pathway on SMC maturation and on MSC differentiation along the myogenic lineage. As expected, knockdown of genes such as Smad2/3 or RhoA inhibited myogenic differentiation, while knocking down the myogenic differentiation inhibitor, Klf4, increased αSMA promoter activity significantly. Notably, some genes for example, Smad7 or KLF4 showed differential regulation of myogenic differentiation in MSC from different anatomic locations such as bone marrow and hair follicles. Finally, Dox-regulatable shRNA expression enabled temporal control of gene knockdown and provided dynamic information on the effect of different genes on myogenic phenotype. Our data suggests that shLVDP may be ideal for development of lentiviral microarrays to decipher gene regulatory networks of complex biological processes such as stem cell differentiation or reprogramming.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Actins / genetics
  • Cell Differentiation / genetics*
  • Gene Knockdown Techniques*
  • Genetic Vectors*
  • Humans
  • Lentivirus / genetics*
  • Luminescent Proteins
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cells / physiology*
  • Muscle Development / genetics
  • Muscle, Smooth
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic
  • RNA, Small Interfering
  • RNA, Viral
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta1 / genetics
  • rho-Associated Kinases / genetics


  • Actins
  • Luminescent Proteins
  • RNA, Small Interfering
  • RNA, Viral
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta1
  • red fluorescent protein
  • rho-Associated Kinases