Influence of mildly acidic pH conditions on the production of lentiviral and retroviral vectors

Hum Gene Ther Clin Dev. 2014 Sep;25(3):178-85. doi: 10.1089/humc.2014.027. Epub 2014 Sep 5.


Human immunodeficiency virus type 1-derived lentiviral vectors (LVs) are becoming major tools for gene transfer approaches. Several gene therapy clinical studies involving LVs are currently ongoing. Industrial production of clinical-grade LVs is therefore an important challenge. Some improvements in LV production protocols have already been possible by acting on multiple steps of the production process like transfection, cell culture, or media optimizations. Yet, the effects of physicochemical parameters such as pH remain poorly studied. Mammalian cell cultures are generally performed at neutral pH, which may not be the optimal condition to produce high quantities of LVs with optimal infectious properties. In this study, we showed that lentiviral transient production in HEK293T cells is inversely dependent on the pH value of the harvesting medium. Infectious and physical titers of LVs pseudotyped with GALVTR or VSV-G glycoproteins are enhanced by two- to threefold at pH 6 compared with neutral conditions. pH 6-produced LVs are highly infectious on cell lines but also on relevant primary target cells like hCD34+ hematopoietic stem/progenitor cells. GALVTR-LV particles produced at pH 6 are highly stable at 37 °C and resistant to multiple freeze-thaw cycles. Higher levels of expression of intracellular pr55gag polyproteins are observed within HEK293T producer cells cultured at pH 6. The positive effect of pH 6 conditions is also observed for moloney-derived retroviral vectors produced from NIH-3T3 fibroblasts, arguing that the mildly acidic pH effect is not limited to the lentivirus genus and is reproducible in various producer cell lines. This observation may help us in the design of more effective LV production protocols for clinical applications.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antigens, CD34 / metabolism
  • Genetic Therapy / methods
  • Genetic Vectors / biosynthesis*
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins / genetics
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins / metabolism
  • HCT116 Cells
  • HEK293 Cells
  • Hematopoietic Stem Cells
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Lentivirus / growth & development*
  • Retroviridae / growth & development*
  • Transduction, Genetic
  • Transfection
  • Viral Envelope Proteins / genetics
  • Viral Envelope Proteins / metabolism


  • Antigens, CD34
  • Viral Envelope Proteins
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins