Fanconi anemia (FA) is amenable to genetic correction of hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs). However, as demonstrated in previous clinical gene therapy trials, successful extension of murine studies into human therapies is limited by low numbers of target HSC and poor engraftment of transduced FA HSC (Kelly et al., Mol Ther, 2007). To examine the potential biological consequences/benefits of shortened transduction we used a FA mouse model in which HSC are deficient and prone to excessive loss during in vitro manipulation. We applied a rapid transduction protocol (Mostoslavsky et al., Mol Ther, 2005) utilizing lentiviral vectors and demonstrate that this shortened transduction preserves engraftment of FA HSC to the level of C57BL/6 wt cells. Lin Sca-1+ c-Kit+ bone marrow cells were isolated from Fanca−/− CD45.2 mice and underwent 4-hr rapid (RT) vs. 96-hr conventional (CT) transduction. An equivalent number of transduced cells were transplanted into lethally irradiated CD45.1 BoyJ mice. Analysis of engraftment chimerism three months post transplantation revealed a significantly higher level of engraftment in animals receiving RT vs. CT cells (90% +/− 14% vs. 26% +/− 31%, respectively, p=<0.01). Rapid transduction also resulted in a significant reduction of engraftment failure (0/36 animals RT vs. 20/36 animals CT). Importantly--emphasizing the FA disease-specific stem cell phenotype, RT vs. CT of C57BL/6 wt cells was associated with no significant difference in engraftment of these cells (93% +/− 1.2% RT vs. 84 +/− 19% CT, p=0.33). Analysis of peripheral blood cells expressing the proviral enhanced green fluorescent protein (eGFP) reporter gene revealed a normal distribution of B-lymphocytes (B220), T-lymphocytes (CD3 epsilon), and granulocytes (MAC-1), indicating multi-lineage engraftment of gene modified cells. In spite of this engraftment advantage, transduction efficiency was low (<30%) using RT. The 6-benzylguanine (6-BG) resistant P140K mutant of O6-methylguanine DNA methyltransferase (MGMTP140K) confers a selective advantage to tranduced HSC treated with alkylating drugs. Following RT with a MGMTP140K/ eGFP expressing lentivirus, 5/6 mice treated with 6-BG and the alkylating drug temozolomide showed a significant rise in the percentage of GFP reporter gene expression in peripheral blood. We extended this approach to the FA model by generating a tri-cistronic lentiviral vector expressing the FANCA cDNA, MGMTP140K, and eGFP. Despite modest in vivo gene marking with this vector, up to 37-fold selection (85% GFP-positive cells) was achieved following exposure of bone marrow of transplant recipients to 6-BG and the alkylating drug temozolomide in vitro. Concurrently, phenotypic correction of mitomycin C hypersensitivity of transduced Fanca−/− bone marrow cells was observed. These data suggest that RT improves stem cell engrafting capacity of FA stem cells in a relevant animal model of stem cell gene therapy. The combination of RT and in vivo selection may allow more successful reconstitution of the lympho-hematopoietic system in gene therapy applications.

Author notes

Disclosure: No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.