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D Stone, A David, F Bolognani, PR Lowenstein, and MG Castro

The transfer of genetic material into endocrine cells and tissues, both in vitro and in vivo, has been identified as critical for the study of endocrine mechanisms and the future treatment of endocrine disorders. Classical methods of gene transfer, such as transfection, are inefficient and limited mainly to delivery into actively proliferating cells in vitro. The development of viral vector gene delivery systems is beginning to circumvent these initial setbacks. Several kinds of viruses, including retrovirus, adenovirus, adeno-associated virus, and herpes simplex virus, have been manipulated for use in gene transfer and gene therapy applications. As different viral vector systems have their own unique advantages and disadvantages, they each have applications for which they are best suited. This review will discuss viral vector systems that have been used for gene transfer into the endocrine system, and recent developments in viral vector technology that may improve their use for endocrine applications - chimeric vectors, viral vector targeting and transcriptional regulation of transgene expression.

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Davis JR, RF McMahon, PR Lowenstein, MG Castro, GA Lincoln, and AS McNeilly

Gene therapy for pituitary disease requires evaluation for safety as well as efficacy. We have reported results of adenovirus-mediated gene transfer using the sheep as a large animal model that allows longitudinal evaluation of hormone secretion and have confirmed high levels of transgene expression up to 7 days after direct stereotaxic injection into the pituitary gland. Here we report the results of detailed histological examination of the pituitary glands from animals injected with two recombinant adenoviruses expressing the beta-galactosidase marker gene, or with saline vehicle to control for the potential tissue-disruptive effect of the injection volume itself. Pituitaries injected with saline showed no evidence of inflammatory response apart from occasional minor foci of apoptosis. In all other respects they were indistinguishable from normal uninjected control pituitary glands. Glands injected with recombinant adenoviruses containing either the hCMV-beta-gal or the hPRL-beta-gal transgene, on the other hand, displayed variable degrees of inflammatory response, with periglandular fibrosis, lymphocytic infiltrate and venulitis in almost all cases. Focal necrosis and/or apoptosis was noted in six of nine cases. In summary, we have found evidence of severe inflammatory reaction within the first seven days of adenovirus injection, amounting to significant hypophysitis. The histological extent of this reaction has not previously been recognised by studies of the efficacy of gene transfer in rodents, and was underestimated by immunocytochemical studies of hormone and transgene expression. The findings emphasise the need for careful evaluation of the safety of endocrine gene therapy, and for caution with the dose of vector used.

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JA Stirland, ZC Seymour, S Windeatt, AJ Norris, P Stanley, MG Castro, AS Loudon, MR White, and Davis JR

Although analysis of luciferase activity using luminescence imaging has provided new insights into the dynamic regulation of gene expression in living tIssues, studies in vitro have relied on stably transfected clonal cell lines, limiting the choice of cell type and species, or DNA microinjection, which is arduous and highly selective. We report here the first use of a recombinant adenovirus in which the firefly luciferase reporter gene was regulated by the prolactin gene promoter, to study temporal dynamics of promoter activity. This vector was used to infect the pituitary GH3 cell line, and also primary cultures of Syrian hamster pituitary cells. We show that adenovirally transduced cells retained normal regulation of the promoter-reporter transgene by appropriate signals. Furthermore, microscopic imaging studies indicated that both clonal and primary pituitary cells were transduced efficiently, giving readily detectable luminescence signals in real-time over long periods. Finally, analysis of single-cell expression patterns indicated that prolactin promoter activity was highly dynamic with pulses in gene expression, revealing that the transcriptional instability seen in clonal cells is a feature of normal pituitary cells. Adenoviral vectors offer a valuable tool for studies of gene regulation where conventional transgenesis and clonal cell lines are not available.