Efficient co-expression of bicistronic proteins in mesenchymal stem cells by development and optimization of a multifunctional plasmid

Christopher D. Krause, Lara S. Izotova, Gwangwen Ren, Zeng Rong Yuan, Yufang Shi, Chiann Chyi Chen, Yacov Ron, Sidney Pestka

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Introduction. Local synthesis of interferon within B16 tumors mediates anti-tumor effects. Based on reports that stem cells are recruited to tumors, and because systemic administration of interferon causes dose-limiting undesirable side effects, we wanted to improve the anti-tumor effects of interferon while simultaneously minimizing its systemic side effects by employing mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) as tumor-localized ectopic producers of interferon. Many vectors exist to fulfill this purpose, but their transfection efficiency and resulting expression levels vary considerably. Methods. To follow both the recruitment to tumors and the synthesis of interferon by MSCs, we designed a bicistronic vector system that permits fluorescent visualization of vector-transfected and interferon-producing MSCs. We used Mu-IFNA cDNA as the first cistron and the cherry fluorescent protein cDNA as the second cistron, whose translation requires the internal ribosome entry sequence (IRES) from the encephalomyocarditis virus 5' untranslated region. Observing inconsistent expression of these cistrons in various vectors and cell lines, especially compared with a control plasmid pmaxGFP, we optimized the expression of this bicistronic message by mutating pcDNA3 to facilitate exchange of the promoter and polyadenylation segments controlling both the gene of interest and the eukaryotic antibiotic resistance gene as well as the eukaryotic antibiotic resistance gene itself, and effectively compare the effects of these exchanges, creating plasmid pc3.5. Results: Murine MSCs stably and ectopically expressing Mu-IFNA inhibited the establishment of tumors in homogeneic C57/BL6 mice. Mu-IFNA expressed from the bicistronic message is fully biologically active, but is expressed at only two-thirds of the level observed from a monocistronic message. Cap-dependent translation is threefold more efficient than IRES-driven translation in 293T, B16, and MSC cell lines. Both efficient expression and good transfection efficiency require strong expression of the gene of interest and a chimeric intron. High doses of Mu-IFNA within tumors inhibited tumor establishment but may not inhibit tumor growth. Conclusions: Our modified vector and its derived plasmids will find use in stem cell therapeutics, gene expression, mRNA regulation, and transcription regulation. Local release of Mu-IFNA within tumors may differently affect tumor establishment and tumor growth.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number15
JournalStem Cell Research and Therapy
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Molecular Medicine
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology (miscellaneous)
  • Cell Biology


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