A double-switch vector system positively regulates transgene expression by endogenous microRNA expression (miR-ON vector)

Mol Ther. 2013 May;21(5):934-46. doi: 10.1038/mt.2013.12. Epub 2013 Feb 26.


To better understand and exploit microRNA (miR) regulation, a more precise characterization of miR expression patterns within a tissue or a lineage during development, differentiation, and homeostasis is needed. We previously showed that lentiviral vectors (LV) can be made responsive to miR to stringently control transgene expression as well as to report miR activity "live" and at the single-cell level. Although very useful, this approach reports miR activity by transgene suppression, hampering the direct identification and selection of miR-expressing cells. Here, we describe a strategy to couple transgene expression to the activity of the miR of interest. To this aim, we generated LV encoding two in-series OFF switches: a transcriptional repressor tagged with miR target sequences and a reporter cassette under the control of the repressor. Reporter expression is ON only when the miR is active and represses translation of the transcriptional repressor. We successfully applied this design to different types of repressors, multiple gene encoding vectors and delivered the system either by two separate or a self-contained vector. We demonstrated its performance by live monitoring of two miRs in different stages of human primary hematopoietic stem/progenitor cell differentiation in vivo. Further applications of this approach include imaging of rare miR-expressing cells and positive regulation of a therapeutic or selector gene in target cells identified by the expression of selected miRs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Binding Sites
  • Cell Line
  • Gene Expression
  • Gene Expression Regulation*
  • Gene Order
  • Gene Transfer Techniques
  • Genes, Reporter
  • Genetic Vectors / genetics*
  • Hematopoietic Stem Cells / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Lentivirus / genetics*
  • MicroRNAs*
  • Protein Binding
  • Trans-Activators / genetics
  • Trans-Activators / metabolism
  • Transcription, Genetic
  • Transgenes*


  • MicroRNAs
  • Trans-Activators