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Open Access Highly Accessed Methodology article

Flip-Flop HSV-BAC: bacterial artificial chromosome based system for rapid generation of recombinant herpes simplex virus vectors using two independent site-specific recombinases

Toshihiko Kuroda1*, Robert L Martuza1, Tomoki Todo12 and Samuel D Rabkin1

Author Affiliations

1 Molecular Neurosurgery Laboratory, Department of Neurosurgery, Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School, 185 Cambridge St., CPZN-3800, Boston, MA 02114, USA

2 Present address: Department of Neurosurgery, The University of Tokyo, 7-3-1 Hongo, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo 113–8655, Japan

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BMC Biotechnology 2006, 6:40  doi:10.1186/1472-6750-6-40

Published: 22 September 2006

Abstract

Background

Oncolytic herpes simplex virus (HSV) vectors that specifically replicate in and kill tumor cells sparing normal cells are a promising cancer therapy. Traditionally, recombinant HSV vectors have been generated through homologous recombination between the HSV genome and a recombination plasmid, which usually requires laborious screening or selection and can take several months. Recent advances in bacterial artificial chromosome (BAC) technology have enabled cloning of the whole HSV genome as a BAC plasmid and subsequent manipulation in E. coli. Thus, we sought a method to generate recombinant oncolytic HSV vectors more easily and quickly using BAC technology.

Results

We have developed an HSV-BAC system, termed the Flip-Flop HSV-BAC system, for the rapid generation of oncolytic HSV vectors. This system has the following features: (i) two site-specific recombinases, Cre and FLPe, are used sequentially to integrate desired sequences and to excise the BAC sequences, respectively; and (ii) the size of the HSV-BAC-insert genome exceeds the packaging limit of HSV so only correctly recombined virus grows efficiently. We applied this to the construction of an HSV-BAC plasmid that can be used for the generation of transcriptionally-targeted HSV vectors. BAC sequences were recombined into the UL39 gene of HSV ICP4-deletion mutant d120 to generate M24-BAC virus, from which HSV-BAC plasmid pM24-BAC was isolated. An ICP4 expression cassette driven by an exogenous promoter was re-introduced to pM24-BAC by Cre-mediated recombination and nearly pure preparations of recombinant virus were obtained typically in two weeks. Insertion of the ICP4 coding sequence alone did not restore viral replication and was only minimally better than an ICP4-null construct, whereas insertion of a CMVIE promoter-ICP4 transgene (bM24-CMV) efficiently drove viral replication. The levels of bM24-CMV replication in tumor cells varied considerably compared to hrR3 (UL39 mutant).

Conclusion

Our Flip-Flop HSV-BAC system enables rapid generation of HSV vectors carrying transgene inserts. By introducing a tumor-specific-promoter-driven ICP4 cassette into pM24-BAC using this system, one should be able to generate transcriptionally-targeted oncolytic HSV vectors. We believe this system will greatly facilitate the screening of a plethora of clinically useful tumor-specific promoters in the context of oncolytic HSV vectors.