MLV integration site selection is driven by strong enhancers and active promoters

Nucleic Acids Res. 2014 Apr;42(7):4257-69. doi: 10.1093/nar/gkt1399. Epub 2014 Jan 23.


Retroviruses integrate into the host genome in patterns specific to each virus. Understanding the causes of these patterns can provide insight into viral integration mechanisms, pathology and genome evolution, and is critical to the development of safe gene therapy vectors. We generated murine leukemia virus integrations in human HepG2 and K562 cells and subjected them to second-generation sequencing, using a DNA barcoding technique that allowed us to quantify independent integration events. We characterized >3,700,000 unique integration events in two ENCODE-characterized cell lines. We find that integrations were most highly enriched in a subset of strong enhancers and active promoters. In both cell types, approximately half the integrations were found in <2% of the genome, demonstrating genomic influences even narrower than previously believed. The integration pattern of murine leukemia virus appears to be largely driven by regions that have high enrichment for multiple marks of active chromatin; the combination of histone marks present was sufficient to explain why some strong enhancers were more prone to integration than others. The approach we used is applicable to analyzing the integration pattern of any exogenous element and could be a valuable preclinical screen to evaluate the safety of gene therapy vectors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural

MeSH terms

  • Attachment Sites, Microbiological*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Enhancer Elements, Genetic*
  • Humans
  • K562 Cells
  • Moloney murine leukemia virus / physiology*
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic*
  • Virus Integration*