Open Access Research article

Gene delivery to pancreatic exocrine cells in vivo and in vitro

Isabelle Houbracken1*, Luc Baeyens2, Philippe Ravassard345, Harry Heimberg2 and Luc Bouwens1

Author Affiliations

1 Cell Differentiation Lab, Diabetes Research Center, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Laarbeeklaan 103, Brussels, B-1090, Belgium

2 Beta Cell Neogenesis Lab, Diabetes Research Center, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Laarbeeklaan 103, Brussels, B-1090, Belgium

3 Université Pierre et Marie Curie-Paris 6, Biotechnology & Biotherapy Team, Centre de Recherche de l’Institut du Cerveau et de la Moelle épinière (CRICM), UMRS 975, Paris, 75013, France

4 CNRS, UMR 7225, Paris, 75013, France

5 Inserm, U 975, Paris, 75013, France

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BMC Biotechnology 2012, 12:74  doi:10.1186/1472-6750-12-74

Published: 22 October 2012



Effective gene transfer to the pancreas or to pancreatic cells has remained elusive although it is essential for studies of genetic lineage tracing and modulation of gene expression. Different transduction methods and viral vectors were tested in vitro and in vivo, in rat and mouse pancreas.


For in vitro transfection/transduction of rat exocrine cells lipofection reagents, adenoviral vectors, and Mokola- and VSV-G pseudotyped lentiviral vectors were used. For in vivo transduction of mouse and rat pancreas adenoviral vectors and VSV-G lentiviral vectors were injected into the parenchymal tissue. Both lipofection of rat exocrine cell cultures and transduction with Mokola pseudotyped lentiviral vectors were inefficient and resulted in less than 4% EGFP expressing cells. Adenoviral transduction was highly efficient but its usefulness for gene delivery to rat exocrine cells in vitro was hampered by a drastic increase in cell death. In vitro transduction of rat exocrine cells was most optimal with VSV-G pseudotyped lentiviral vectors, with stable transgene expression, no significant effect on cell survival and about 40% transduced cells. In vivo, pancreatic cells could not be transduced by intra-parenchymal administration of lentiviral vectors in mouse and rat pancreas. However, a high efficiency could be obtained by adenoviral vectors, resulting in transient transduction of mainly exocrine acinar cells. Injection in immune-deficient animals diminished leukocyte infiltration and prolonged transgene expression.


In summary, our study remarkably demonstrates that transduction of pancreatic exocrine cells requires lentiviral vectors in vitro but adenoviral vectors in vivo.

Lentiviral vector; Adenoviral vector; Lipofection; Gene transfer; Pancreas; Acinar cell