Insertional mutagenesis and development of leukemia following retroviral gene therapy has created intense interest in assessing the safety of viral vectors for further gene therapy trials. Using the gtsg.org database we analyzed more than 14,900 different viral integration sites of ASLV, FIV, FV, HIV, MLV and SIV based vectors in terms of insertions into fragile sites, cancer genes, transcription factor binding sites, CpG islands, and repetitive elements (SINE, LINE, LTR elements). When we compared these data with our newly generated random set, containing 1,000,000 random integrations, we discovered that the gene density on fragile sites strongly correlates to the HIV vector insertion frequency. Furthermore, we report a up to a five fold increased frequency of HIV, MLV and SIV insertions in cancer genes. The majority of cancer genes preferentially hit by HIV viruses were found associated to acute leukemias, while MLV and SIV vector insertion sites are seen more evenly spread over the cancer gene repertoire. When analyzing different cell entities, it turned out that CD34+ hematopoetic stem cells had highest rates of intragenic insertions and hosted significantly more HIV and FV insertions in cancer genes than other cell types, such as HeLa, T cells, 293T cells, macrophages, fibroblasts, or SupT1 cells.

Author notes

Disclosure: No relevant conflicts of interest to declare