Author(s): Coluccio A, Miselli F, Lombardo A, Marconi A, Malagoli Tagliazucchi G,
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Abstract Preclinical and clinical studies showed that autologous transplantation of epidermis derived from genetically modified epithelial stem cells (EpSCs) leads to long-term correction of inherited skin adhesion defects. These studies were based on potentially genotoxic retroviral vectors. We developed an alternative gene transfer strategy aimed at targeting a "safe harbor" locus, the adeno-associated virus integration site 1 (AAVS1), by zinc-finger nuclease (ZFN)-induced homologous recombination (HR). Delivery of AAVS1-specific ZFNs and a GFP-expressing HR cassette by integration-defective lentiviral (LV) vectors (IDLVs) or adenoviral (Ad) vectors resulted in targeted gene addition with an efficiency of > 20\% in a human keratinocyte cell line, > 10\% in immortalized keratinocytes, and < 1\% in primary keratinocytes. Deep sequencing of the AAVS1 locus showed that ZFN-induced double-strand breaks are mostly repaired by nonhomologous end joining (NHEJ) in primary cells, indicating that poor induction of the HR-dependent DNA repair pathway may be a significant limitation for targeted gene integration. Skin equivalents derived from unselected keratinocyte cultures coinfected with a GFP-IDLV and a ZFN-Ad vector were grafted onto immunodeficient mice. GFP-positive clones were observed in all grafts up to 18 weeks post-transplantation. By histological and molecular analysis, we were able to demonstrate highly efficient targeting of the AAVS1 locus in human repopulating EpSCs.
This article was published in Mol Ther
and referenced in Journal of Molecular and Genetic Medicine