Alphaviral vectors for gene transfer into neurons

Ehrengruber, Markus

In: Molecular Neurobiology, 2002, vol. 26, no. 2-3, p. 183-201

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    Alphaviruses are small, enveloped positive-strand RNA viruses that have been successfully transformed into expression vectors in the case of Semliki Forest virus (SFV), Sindbis virus (SIN), and Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus. Compared to other viral vectors, their advantages are easy and fast generation of recombinant viral particles, rapid onset, and high-level transgene expression. When applied to neuronal tissue, SFV and SIN vectors possess the additional advantage of efficiently and preferentially transducing neurons rather than non-neuronal cells. This article gives an overview of the biology of SFV and SIN, their generation into expression vectors, and their application in neurobiology, with particular emphasis on the transduction of hippocampal neurons. In addition, it describes the more recent development of alphaviral vectors with decreased or absent cytotoxicity and lowered transgene expression, temperature-controllable gene expression, and altered host-cell specificity in the central nervous system (CNS). Finally, the review evaluates the use of SFV and SIN vectors in hippocampal tissue cultures vs recombinant lentivirus, adenovirus type 5, adeno-associated virus type 2, and measles virus