Background: Viral vectors are invaluable tools to transfer genes and/or regulatory sequences into differentiated cells such as pancreatic cells. To date, several kinds of viral vectors have been used to transduce different pancreatic cell types, including insulin-producing β cells. However, few studies have used vectors derived from « simple » retroviruses, such as avian α- or mouse γ-retroviruses, despite their high experimental convenience. Moreover, such vectors were never designed to specifically target transgene expression into β cells.
Results: We here describe two novel α- or SIN (Self-Inactivating) γ-retrovectors containing the RIP (Rat Insulin Promoter) as internal promoter. These two retrovectors are easily produced in standard BSL2 conditions, rapidly concentrated if needed, and harbor a large multiple cloning site. For the SIN γ-retrovector, either the VSV-G (pantropic) or the retroviral ecotropic (rodent specific) envelope was used. For the α-retrovector, we used the A type envelope, as its receptor, termed TVA, is only naturally present in avian cells and can efficiently be provided to mammalian β cells through either exogenous expression upon cDNA transfer or gesicle-mediated delivery of the protein. As expected, the transgenes cloned into the two RIP-containing retrovectors displayed a strong preferential expression in β over non-β cells compared to transgenes cloned in their non-RIP (CMV- or LTR-) regulated counterparts. We further show that RIP activity of both retrovectors mirrored fluctuations affecting endogenous INSULIN gene expression in human β cells. Finally, both α- and SIN γ-retrovectors were extremely poorly mobilized by the BXV1 xenotropic retrovirus, a common invader of human cells grown in immunodeficient mice, and, most notably, of human β cell lines.
Conclusion: Our novel α- and SIN γ-retrovectors are safe and convenient tools to stably and specifically express transgene(s) in mammalian β cells. Moreover, they both reproduce some regulatory patterns affecting INSULIN gene expression. Thus, they provide a helpful tool to both study the genetic control of β cell function and monitor changes in their differentiation status.
Keywords: BXV1 xenotropic retrovirus; EndoC-β H2 cells; Pancreatic β cell lines; Rat insulin promoter; SIN γ-retrovector; TVA gesicles; α-Retrovector.