Genetic modification of cancer cells using non-viral, episomal S/MAR vectors for in vivo tumour modelling

PLoS One. 2012;7(10):e47920. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0047920. Epub 2012 Oct 26.


The development of genetically marked animal tumour xenografts is an area of ongoing research to enable easier and more reliable testing of cancer therapies. Genetically marked tumour models have a number of advantages over conventional tumour models, including the easy longitudinal monitoring of therapies and the reduced number of animals needed for trials. Several different methods have been used in previous studies to mark tumours genetically, however all have limitations, such as genotoxicity and other artifacts related to the usage of integrating viral vectors. Recently, we have generated an episomally maintained plasmid DNA (pDNA) expression system based on Scaffold/Matrix Attachment Region (S/MAR), which permits long-term luciferase transgene expression in the mouse liver. Here we describe a further usage of this pDNA vector with the human Ubiquitin C promoter to create stably transfected human hepatoma (Huh7) and human Pancreatic Carcinoma (MIA-PaCa2) cell lines, which were delivered into "immune deficient" mice and monitored longitudinally over time using a bioluminometer. Both cell lines revealed sustained episomal long-term luciferase expression and formation of a tumour showing the pathological characteristics of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) and pancreatic carcinoma (PaCa), respectively. This is the first demonstration that a pDNA vector can confer sustained episomal luciferase transgene expression in various mouse tumour models and can thus be readily utilised to follow tumour formation without interfering with the cellular genome.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blotting, Southern
  • Cell Line, Tumor*
  • DNA Primers / genetics
  • Genetic Vectors / genetics
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Luciferases
  • Matrix Attachment Regions / genetics*
  • Mice
  • Mice, SCID
  • Plasmids / genetics
  • Plasmids / metabolism*
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic / genetics
  • Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Transplantation, Heterologous / methods*
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured / metabolism*
  • Ubiquitin C / genetics


  • DNA Primers
  • Ubiquitin C
  • Luciferases