In Vivo Gene Transfer to the Rabbit Common Carotid Artery Endothelium

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The goal of this method is to introduce a transgene into the endothelium of isolated segments of both rabbit common carotid arteries. The method achieves focal endothelial-selective transgenesis, thereby allowing an investigator to determine the biological roles of endothelial-expressed transgenes and to quantify the in vivo transcriptional activity of DNA sequences in large artery endothelial cells. The method uses surgical isolation of rabbit common carotid arteries and an arteriotomy to deliver a transgene-expressing viral vector into the arterial lumen. A short incubation period of the vector in the lumen, with subsequent aspiration of the lumen contents, is sufficient to achieve efficient and durable expression of the transgene in the endothelium, with no detectable transduction or expression outside of the isolated arterial segment. The method allows assessment of the biological activities of transgene products both in normal arteries and in models of human vascular disease, while avoiding systemic effects that could be caused either by targeting gene delivery to other sites (e.g. the liver) or by the alternative approach of delivering genetic constructs to the endothelium by germ line transgenesis. Application of the method is limited by the need for a skilled surgeon and anesthetist, a well-equipped operating room, the costs of purchasing and housing rabbits, and the need for expertise in gene-transfer vector construction and use. Results obtained with this method include: transgene-related alterations in arterial structure, cellularity, extracellular matrix, or vasomotor function; increases or reductions in arterial inflammation; alterations in vascular cell apoptosis; and progression, retardation, or regression of diseases such as intimal hyperplasia or atherosclerosis. The method also allows measurement of the ability of native and synthetic DNA regulatory sequences to alter transgene expression in endothelial cells, providing results that include: levels of transgene mRNA, levels of transgene protein, and levels of transgene enzymatic activity.