2018. Jung-soo Nam, Ji-eun Lee, Kwang-hee Lee, Yeji Yang, Soo-hyun Kim, Gyu-un Bae, Hohsuk Noh, and
The unique ability of retroviruses to integrate genes into host genomes is of great value for long-term expression in gene therapy, but only when integrations occur at safe genomic sites. To reap the benefit of using retroviruses without severe detrimental effects, we developed several murine leukemia virus (MLV)-based gammaretroviral vectors with safer integration patterns by perturbing the structure of the integrase via insertion of DNA-binding zinc-finger domains (ZFDs) into an internal position of the enzyme. ZFD insertion significantly reduced the inherent, strong MLV integration preference for genomic regions near transcriptional start sites (TSSs), which are the most dangerous spots. The altered retroviral integration pattern was related to increased formation of residual primerbinding site sequences at the 30 end of proviruses. Several ZFD insertion mutants showed lower frequencies of integrations into the TSS genome regions when having the residual primer-binding site sequences in the proviruses. Our findings not only can extend the use of retroviruses in biomedical applications, but also provide a glimpse into the mechanisms underlying retroviral integration.