Herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) amplicon vectors were evaluated for feasibility in gene therapy of Duchenne's muscular dystrophy (DMD). An amplicon vector expressing enhanced green fluorescent protein (eGFP) was examined for transduction efficiency and cytotoxicity in cultured muscle cells, and for transduction efficiency, duration of transgene expression, and immunogenicity in tibialis anterior (TA) muscles of neonatal mice. Transduction efficiencies in murine and human myoblasts were 60-90 and 50-60%, respectively, when myoblasts were transduced at multiplicities of infection (MOIs) of 1-5. Similar transduction efficiencies were observed in myotubes of both species. No cytotoxic effects were noticed at an MOI of 10, the highest MOI tested. An amplicon vector, HyMD, containing the full-length mouse dystrophin cDNA and its muscle creatine kinase (MCK) promoter-enhancer, with a total size of 26 kb, was constructed and used to transduce mdx mouse myotubes. The expression of dystrophin in these cells was demonstrated by immunocytochemistry. After injecting 4-6 × 105 transduction units (TU) of HSVGN amplicon vectors, 10-50% of myofibers in the injected TA muscles expressed GFP. Although transgene expression was attenuated over time, significant improvement in long-term transgene expression and persistence of vector DNA was achieved, when compared with the first generation of recombinant HSV-1 vectors. Immunohistochemistry showed a modest CD4+ lymphocyte infiltration in the vicinity of the injection. A gradually developed CD8+ lymphocyte infiltration was also seen, most likely related to the antigenicity of the transgene product, GFP. We conclude that the HSV-1 amplicon vector is a promising vehicle for gene delivery in DMD. However, new strategies need to be evaluated to increase the stability of transgene expression.
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