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. 2019 Nov;30(11):1336-1348.
doi: 10.1089/hum.2019.071. Epub 2019 Sep 25.

Gene Delivery to Human Limbal Stem Cells Using Viral Vectors

Free PMC article

Gene Delivery to Human Limbal Stem Cells Using Viral Vectors

Liujiang Song et al. Hum Gene Ther. .
Free PMC article


Limbal stem cell (LSC) transplantation is a promising treatment for ocular surface diseases especially LSC deficiency. Genetic engineering represents an attractive strategy to increase the potential for success in LSC transplantations either by correcting autologous diseased LSCs or by decreasing the immunogenicity of allogeneic LSCs. Therefore, two popular viral vectors, adeno-associated viral (AAV) vector and lentiviral (LV) vector, were compared for gene delivery in human LSCs. Transduction efficiency was evaluated by flow cytometry, quantitation of viral genomes, and fluorescence microscopy after introducing eight self-complementary AAV serotypes or LV carrying a green fluorescent protein (GFP) cassette to fresh limbal epithelial cells, cultivated LSC colonies, or after corneal intrastromal injection into human explant tissue. For fresh limbal epithelial cells, AAV6 showed the highest transduction efficiency, followed by LV and AAV4 at 24 h after vector incubation, which did not directly correlate with internalized genome copy number. The colony formation efficiency, as well as colony size over time, showed no significant differences among AAV serotypes, LV, and nontreated controls. The percentage of GFP+ colonies at 14 days post-seeding was significantly higher in the LV group, which plateaued at 50% GFP+ upon serial passages. Interestingly, AAV6-treated colonies initially showed a variegated transduction phenotype with no GFP+ colonies in serial passages. Quantitative polymerase chain reaction and AAV6 capsid staining revealed that transduction was restricted to differentiated cells of LSC colonies at a post-entry step. Following central intrastromal injection of human corneas, both LV and AAV6 transduced the stroma and endothelial cells, and AAV6 also transduced cells of the epithelia. However, no transduction was observed in derived LSC colonies. The collective results demonstrate the effectiveness of LV for stable human LSC genetic engineering and an unreported phenomenon of AAV6 transduction restriction in multipotent cells derived from the human limbus.

Keywords: adeno-associated virus; gene delivery; lentivirus; limbal stem cells; viral vectors.

Conflict of interest statement

M.L.H. is an inventor on technology that has been licensed to AskBio. AskBio maintains a separate license on scAAV, which was evaluated as part of this study.

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