Transcriptional targeting of dendritic cells for gene therapy using the promoter of the cytoskeletal protein fascin

R Ross, S Sudowe, J Beisner, X-L Ross, I Ludwig-Portugall, J Steitz, T Tüting, J Knop, A B Reske-Kunz
Gene Therapy 2003, 10 (12): 1035-40
Strong cell-type-specific promoters are basic tools in gene therapy allowing for novel applications and focused strategies by transcriptionally targeting gene expression to selected cells. In immunotherapy, dendritic cells (DC) are of central importance, since they represent the principal inducers of immune responses. Here we describe isolation and use of the promoter of the murine actin-bundling protein fascin to target transcriptionally gene expression to cutaneous DC. Using the reporter gene enhanced green fluorescent protein (EGFP), we demonstrate that the fascin promoter mediates a strong antigen expression that is restricted to mature DC. DNA vaccination with antigen-encoding expression vectors under control of the fascin promoter using a gene gun resulted, consistently, in limited antigen expression by few directly transfected DC. Nevertheless, nearly as many antigen-specific CD8+ T cells directed against the encoded antigens EGFP and beta-galactosidase, respectively, were induced as with expression constructs under control of the ubiquitously expressed CMV promoter. This result impressively underlines the pivotal role of directly transfected DC in DNA vaccination. Immunization using the fascin promoter induced markedly lower levels of antigen-specific antibodies following single or repeated immunization. Thus, our DC-targeted DNA vaccination approach induces qualitatively distinct, predominantly cellular immune responses and provides new opportunities for immunotherapy.

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