We have successfully generated and characterized a stable packaging cell line for HIV-1-based vectors. To allow safe production of vector, a minimal packaging construct carrying only the coding sequences of the HIV-1 gag-pol, tat, and rev genes was stably introduced into 293G cells under the control of a Teto minimal promoter. 293G cells express the chimeric TetR/VP16 trans-activator and contain a tetracycline-regulated vesicular stomatitis virus protein G (VSV-G) envelope gene. When the cells were grown in the presence of tetracycline the expression of both HIV-1-derived and VSV-derived packaging functions was suppressed. On induction, approximately 50 ng/ml/24 hr of Gag p24 equivalent of vector was obtained. After introduction of the transfer vector by serial infection, vector could be collected for several days with a transduction efficiency similar or superior to that of vector produced by transient transfection both for dividing and growth-arrested cells. The vector could be effectively concentrated to titers reaching 109 transducing units/ml and allowed for efficient delivery and stable expression of a GFP transgene in the mouse brain. The packaging cell line and all vector producer clones described here were shown to be free from replication-competent recombinants, and from recombinants between packaging and vector constructs that transfer the viral gag-pol genes. The packaging cell line and the assays developed will advance lentiviral vectors toward the stringent requirements of clinical applications.
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