Mouse mammary tumor virus-based vector transduces non-dividing cells, enters the nucleus via a TNPO3-independent pathway and integrates in a less biased fashion than other retroviruses.

PMID 24779422


Mouse mammary tumor virus (MMTV) is a complex, milk-born betaretrovirus, which preferentially infects dendritic cells (DC) in the gastrointestinal tract and then spreads to T and B lymphocytes and finally to the mammary gland. It is not clear how the prototypic betaretrovirus infects mucosal DCs and naïve lymphocytes as these cells are considered to be non-proliferative. Studies of MMTV biology have been hampered by the difficulty of obtaining sufficient virus/vector titers after transfection of a molecular clone in cultured cells. To surmount this barrier we developed a novel MMTV-based vector system with a split genome design containing potent posttranscriptional regulatory functions. Using this system, vector particles were produced to markedly greater titers (>1000-fold) than those obtained previously. The titers (>106 transduction units /ml) were comparable to those achieved with lentiviral or gammaretroviral vectors. Importantly, the vector transduced the enhanced green fluorescence protein gene into the chromosomes of non-dividing cells, such as cells arrested at the G2/M phase of the cell cycle and unstimulated hematopoietic progenitor cells, at an efficiency similar to that obtained with the HIV-1-based vector. In contrast to HIV-1, MMTV transductions were not affected by knocking down the expression of a factor involved in nuclear import of the HIV-1 pre-integration complexes, TNPO3. In contrast to HIV-1, the MMTV-based vector did not preferentially integrate in transcription units. Additionally, no preference for integration near transcription start sites, the regions preferentially targeted by gammaretroviral vectors, was observed. The vector derived from MMTV exhibits a random integration pattern. Overall, the betaretroviral vector system should facilitate molecular virology studies of the prototypic betaretrovirus as well as studies attempting to elucidate fundamental cellular processes such as nuclear import pathways. Random integration in cycling and non-cycling cells may be applicable in unbiased gene delivery.