The development of gene transfer systems for the efficient transduction of human primary cells including lymphocytes and CD34+ cells is a significant step in the advancement of gene therapy and cell marking protocols. Efficient gene transfer systems also represent useful tools for basic research. Here we show that human primary lymphocytes and CD34+ cells can be efficiently transduced using a VSV-G pseudotyped HIV-1-based gene transfer system. The enhanced green fluorescent protein (EGFP) was chosen as the marker transgene, because it can be easily visualized and quantitated using fluorescence microscopy and flow cytometry, thus eliminating the need for selection or PCR to score transduction. Vectors produced with this system did not generate replication-competent retroviruses (RCRs) and efficiently transduced human cell lines (40-90%), PBMCs (60%), mobilized CD34+ cells (39%), and CD34+ cells from umbilical cord blood (60%) as measured by flow cytometry. Cells treated with AZT prior to infection did not express EGFP, ruling out passive protein or plasmid DNA transfer. This was further confirmed in methylcellulose cultures, where expression in myeloid and erythroid colonies was maintained for at least 3 weeks. In addition, this HIV-based vector was able to efficiently transduce freshly isolated, not-prestimulated CD34+ cells (70% EGFP positive) in serum-free medium. Under these same conditions, a Moloney murine leukemia virus-based vector failed to transduce not-prestimulated CD34+ cells. These characteristics make this gene transfer system an excellent choice for both basic science and possible gene therapy applications.
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