Construction and Characterization of a Robust in vivo Technology for the Production of Superior DNA Vectors for Gene Therapy and Vaccination
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Plasmid DNA (pDNA) vectors are the current conventional technology driving therapeutic gene transfer, whether for use toward mal/nonfunctional gene replacement, DNA vaccination, or production of therapeutic proteins in mammalian cells. However, the conventional pDNA vector suffers from several safety and efficiency limitations: 1) it imparts adverse immune responses to bacterial sequences required for maintenance and amplification in prokaryotes; 2) its bioavailability can be compromised due to size; and 3) it may be genotoxic due to its potential to integrate into the host chromosome and yield an oncogenic event. In this study we have constructed a robust in vivo bacterial platform for the production of bacterial sequence-free linear covalently closed (LCC) DNA vectors, termed DNA Ministrings, through the manipulation and application of bacteriophage-encoded recombination systems. Phage N15 and PY54 lysogenize their bacterial hosts as a linear plasmid with covalently closed ends (LCC plasmid). LCC morphology is conferred by the phage-encoded telomerase via a single cleaving-joining reaction of the perfect palindrome target site. This system was exploited to generate DNA Ministring vectors, encoding only the gene(s) of interest and necessary complementary eukaryotic expression/enhancement genetic elements that are devoid of unwanted bacterial sequences and are linearized through a single in vivo enzymatic reaction. The tel and telN prokaryotic telomerase (protelomerase) genes were amplified from PY54 and N15 lysates, respectively, and cloned into a bacterial vector that expresses the gene under control of the temperature sensitive bacteriophage λ CI857 repressor that confers conditional expression from λ pL/pR promoters. This regulatory circuit was integrated into a RecA+ lacZ+ E. coli K-12 strain via homologous recombination, where successful recombinants were disrupted for the lacZ gene. Recombinant cells are capable of conditional expression of the phage-derived telomerase enzymes by shifting the temperature to >37 °C. Phage P1-derived Cre recombinase was applied as a positive control, since its functionality in generating DNA minicircle vectors has been previously shown. A multi-purpose 342 bp target site termed Super Sequence (SS) that possesses the Cre, Flp, Tel, and TelN target sites in addition to two flanking SV40 enhancer sequences was cloned into two different sites of a GFP expression eukaryotic pDNA vector. The amplification of this DNA vector through telN / tel or cre expressing Recombinant E. coli cells (R-cells) generated bacterial sequence-depleted (LCC) DNA Ministring and (CCC) Minicircle vectors, respectively, as evidenced by digestion patterns of the purified vector. Transfection efficiency of these vectors was assessed in rapidly dividing human ovarian cancer and in relatively slowly dividing human embryonic kidney cell lines. In vitro experiments with DNA Ministrings in human cells lines resulted in significantly higher transfection efficiency, bioavailability, and cytoplasmic diffusion levels compared to the parental plasmid precursor and isogenic DNA Minicircle counterparts. The safety of the LCC DNA vector conformation, with respect to insertional genotoxicity, was assessed by forcing LCC pDNA vectors into bacterial and human genomic DNA. The integration of LCC DNA into bacterial and human host genomic DNA resulted in chromosomal DNA disruptions at site of integration, loss of genome stability, and subsequent cell death. LCC integration-induced apoptotic cell death and natural elimination of the integrant from human cell population improves the safety profile of DNA Ministrings by eliminating integrants following the potential genotoxic side effects of undesired vector integration into the host genome.