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    We report the development of episomal vectors for the specific γ-globin transcription activation in its native position by activator Zif-VP64, based on the Scaffold/Matrix Attachment Region (S/MAR) for episomal retention and the β-globin Replicator, the DNA replication-Initiation Region from the β-globin locus. Vector Zif-VP64-Ep1 containing transcription cassettes CMV- Zif-VP64 and CMV-eGFP-S/MAR transfected a)K562 cells; b)murine β-YAC bone marrow cells (BMC); c)human haematopoietic progenitor CD34+ cells, with transfection efficiencies of 46.3 ± 5.2%, 23.0 ± 2.1% and 24.2 ± 2.4% respectively. K562 transfections generated stable cell lines running for 28 weeks with and without selection, with increased levels of γ-globin mRNA by 3.3 ± 0.13, of γ-globin protein by 6.75 ± 3.25 and HbF protein by 2 ± 0.2 fold, while the vector remained episomal and non integrated. In murine β-YAC BMCs the vector mediated the activation of the silent human γ-globin gene and in CD34+ cells, increased γ-globin mRNA, albeit only transiently. A second vector Zif-VP64-Ep2, with both transcription cassettes carrying promoter SFFV instead of CMV and the addition of β-globin Replicator, transferred into CD34+ cells, produced CD34+ eGFP+ cells, that generated colonies in colony forming cell cultures. Importantly, these were 100% fluorescent, with 2.11 ± 0.13 fold increased γ-globin mRNA, compared to non-transfected cells. We consider these episomal vectors valid, safer alternatives to viral vectors.


    Eleana F Stavrou, Emannuouil Simantirakis, Meletios Verras, Carlos Barbas, George Vassilopoulos, Kenneth R Peterson, Aglaia Athanassiadou. Episomal vectors based on S/MAR and the β-globin Replicator, encoding a synthetic transcriptional activator, mediate efficient γ-globin activation in haematopoietic cells. Scientific reports. 2019 Dec 24;9(1):19765

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    PMID: 31874995

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