Retroviral vectors offer benefits of efficient delivery and stable gene expression; however, their clinical use raises the concerns of insertional mutagenesis and potential oncogenesis due to genomic integration preferences in transcriptional start sites (TSS). We have shifted the integration preferences of retroviral vectors by generating a library of viral variants with a DNA-binding domain inserted at random positions throughout murine leukemia virus Gag-Pol, then selecting for variants that are viable and exhibit altered integration properties. We found seven permissive zinc finger domain (ZFD) insertion sites throughout Gag-Pol, including within p12, reverse transcriptase, and integrase. Comprehensive genome integration analysis showed that several ZFD insertions yielded retroviral vector variants with shifted integration patterns that did not favor TSS. Furthermore, integration site analysis revealed selective integration for numerous mutants. For example, two retroviral variants with a given ZFD at appropriate positions in Gag-Pol strikingly integrated primarily into four common sites out of 3.1 x 10(9) possible human genome locations (P = 4.6 x 10(-29)). Our findings demonstrate that insertion of DNA-binding motifs into multiple locations in Gag-Pol can make considerable progress toward engineering safer retroviral vectors that integrate into a significantly narrowed pool of sites on human genome and overcome the preference for TSS.
PMID: 20616052 PMCID: PMC2906550 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1001402107