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Pfützner, Wolfgang; Vogel, Jonathan C. (2004): Topical colchicine selection of keratinocytes transduced with the multidrug resistance gene (MDR1) can sustain and enhance transgene expression in vivo. In: Cells Tissues Organs, No. 3: pp. 151-159




In gene therapy, a clinically relevant therapeutic effect requires long-term expression of the desired gene at a level sufficient to correct or at least alleviate the underlying gene defect. One approach to achieve persistent as well as high-level transgene expression in a significant percentage of target cells would be to select cells expressing both the desired transgene and a linked selectable gene such as the human multi-drug resistance (MDR1) gene-in a bicistronic vector. Because of its accessibility, the skin is a very attractive target tissue to select genetically modified cells, allowing topical application of a selecting agent, thus minimizing potential toxic side effects. Among the potential selecting drugs, agents that block cell division, such as colchicine, are of particular interest because the use of anti-mitotic drugs takes advantage of the rapid keratinocyte ( KC) turnover in the epidermis and the need for continued proliferation to substitute the KC lost due to selection. Before assessing the therapeutic benefit of such an approach, several key questions need to be answered in preclinical models: ( 1) Does topical colchicine application achieve the desired in vivo effect by blocking KC mitosis without eliciting unwanted toxic side effects? ( 2) Are MDR-transduced (MDR+) human KC still able to proliferate and differentiate when treated with colchicine? ( 3) Can MDR+ KC be enriched by topical selection? ( 4) Does topical selection result in persistent transgene expression by selecting KC stem cells expressing MDR? To answer these questions and to test the feasibility of such an approach both an in vitro skin equivalent and an in vivo human skin graft model were developed in which MDR+ KC were treated with different dosages of colchicine. Quantitative and qualitative analyses of MDR expression in human KC showed that topical colchicine treatment selects high-level transgene expression in a high percentage of KC. Moreover, determination of transgene copy numbers demonstrated that MDR+ KC progenitor cells were enriched by topical selection resulting in long-term expression of the transgene in the skin. Thus, in summary, these models demonstrate that topical selection of MDR+ KC is a safe approach to efficiently enhance long-term gene expression in the skin and holds future promise for clinical gene therapy applications. Copyright (C) 2004 S. Karger AG, Basel.