Insertional leukemogenesis represents the major risk factor of hematopoietic stem cell (HSC) based gene therapy utilizing integrating viral vectors. To develop a pre-clinical model for the evaluation of vector-related genotoxicity directly in the relevant human target cells, cord blood CD34(+) HSCs were transplanted into immunodeficient NOD.SCID.IL2rg(-/-) (NSG) mice after transduction with an LTR-driven gammaretroviral vector (GV). Furthermore, we specifically investigated the effect of prolonged in vitro culture in the presence of cytokines recently described to promote HSC expansion or maintenance. Clonality of human hematopoiesis in NSG mice was assessed by high throughput insertion site analyses and validated by insertion site-specific PCR depicting a GV typical integration profile with insertion sites resembling to 25% those of clinical studies. No overrepresentation of integrations in the vicinity of cancer-related genes was observed, however, several dominant clones were identified including two clones harboring integrations in the ANGPT1 and near the ANGPT2 genes associated with deregulated ANGPT1- and ANGPT2-mRNA levels. While these data underscore the potential value of the NSG model, our studies also identified short-comings such as overall low numbers of engrafted HSCs, limited in vivo observation time, and the challenges of in-depth insertion site analyses by low contribution of gene modified hematopoiesis.
Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome (WAS) is characterized by microthrombocytopenia, immunodeficiency, autoimmunity, and susceptibility to malignancies. In our hematopoietic stem cell gene therapy (GT) trial using a ?-retroviral vector, 9 of 10 patients showed sustained engraftment and correction of WAS protein (WASP) expression in lymphoid and myeloid cells and platelets. GT resulted in partial or complete resolution of immunodeficiency, autoimmunity, and bleeding diathesis. Analysis of retroviral insertion sites revealed >140,000 unambiguous integration sites and a polyclonal pattern of hematopoiesis in all patients early after GT. Seven patients developed acute leukemia [one acute myeloid leukemia (AML), four T cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (T-ALL), and two primary T-ALL with secondary AML associated with a dominant clone with vector integration at the LMO2 (six T-ALL), MDS1 (two AML), or MN1 (one AML) locus]. Cytogenetic analysis revealed additional genetic alterations such as chromosomal translocations. This study shows that hematopoietic stem cell GT for WAS is feasible and effective, but the use of ?-retroviral vectors is associated with a substantial risk of leukemogenesis.
Mutations in the metabolic enzymes isocitrate dehydrogenase 1 (IDH1) and 2 (IDH2) are frequently found in glioma, acute myeloid leukemia (AML), melanoma, thyroid cancer, and chondrosarcoma patients. Mutant IDH produces 2-hydroxyglutarate (2HG), which induces histone- and DNA-hypermethylation through inhibition of epigenetic regulators. We investigated the role of mutant IDH1 using the mouse transplantation assay. Mutant IDH1 alone did not transform hematopoietic cells during 5 months of observation. However, mutant IDH1 greatly accelerated onset of myeloproliferative disease-like myeloid leukemia in mice in cooperation with HoxA9 with a mean latency of 83 days compared with cells expressing HoxA9 and wild-type IDH1 or a control vector (167 and 210 days, respectively, P = .001). Mutant IDH1 accelerated cell-cycle transition through repression of cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitors Cdkn2a and Cdkn2b, and activated mitogen-activated protein kinase signaling. By computational screening, we identified an inhibitor of mutant IDH1, which inhibited mutant IDH1 cells and lowered 2HG levels in vitro, and efficiently blocked colony formation of AML cells from IDH1-mutated patients but not of normal CD34(+) bone marrow cells. These data demonstrate that mutant IDH1 has oncogenic activity in vivo and suggest that it is a promising therapeutic target in human AML cells.
Integrating vectors developed on the basis of various retroviruses have demonstrated therapeutic potential following genetic modification of long-lived hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells. Lentiviral vectors (LV) are assumed to circumvent genotoxic events previously observed with ?-retroviral vectors, due to their integration bias to transcription units in comparison to the ?-retroviral preference for promoter regions and CpG islands. However, recently several studies have revealed the potential for gene activation by LV insertions. Here, we report a murine acute B-lymphoblastic leukemia (B-ALL) triggered by insertional gene inactivation. LV integration occurred into the 8th intron of Ebf1, a major regulator of B-lymphopoiesis. Various aberrant splice variants could be detected that involved splice donor and acceptor sites of the lentiviral construct, inducing downregulation of Ebf1 full-length message. The transcriptome signature was compatible with loss of this major determinant of B-cell differentiation, with partial acquisition of myeloid markers, including Csf1r (macrophage colony-stimulating factor (M-CSF) receptor). This was accompanied by receptor phosphorylation and STAT5 activation, both most likely contributing to leukemic progression. Our results highlight the risk of intragenic vector integration to initiate leukemia by inducing haploinsufficiency of a tumor suppressor gene. We propose to address this risk in future vector design.
Efficient MGMTP140K-mediated myeloprotection and in vivo selection have been demonstrated in numerous animal models and most recently in a phase-I clinical study in glioblastoma patients. However, this strategy may augment the genotoxic risk of integrating vectors due to chemotherapy-induced DNA damage and the proliferative stress exerted during the in vivo selection. Thus, to improve the safety of the procedure we evaluated a SIN lentiviral MGMTP140K vector for transduction of human cord blood-derived CD34+ cells followed by transplantation of the cells into NOD/LtSz-scid/Il2r?-/- mice. These experiments demonstrated significant and stable enrichment of MGMTP140K transgenic human cells in the murine peripheral blood and bone marrow. Clonal inventory analysis utilizing LAM-PCR and high-throughput sequencing revealed a characteristic lentiviral integration profile. Among the bone marrow insertions retrieved, we observed considerable overlap to previous MGMTP140K pre-clinical models or the clinical study. However, no significant differences between our chemotherapy treated and non-treated cohorts were observed. This also hold true when specific cancer gene databases and a functional annotation of hit genes by the Panther Database with respect to molecular function, biological process or cellular component were assessed. Thus in summary, our data demonstrates efficient and long-term in vivo selection without overt hematological abnormalities using the lentiviral MGMTP140K vector. Furthermore, the study introduces humanized mouse models as a novel tool for the pre-clinical assessment of genotoxicity in human hematopoietic gene therapy.
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