Ex vivo expansion and selection of human CD34+ peripheral blood progenitor cells after introduction of a mutated dihydrofolate reductase cDNA via retroviral gene transfer

Michael Flasshove, Debabrata Banerjee, Shin Mineishi, Ming Xia Li, Joseph R. Bertino, Malcolm A.S. Moore

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

88 Scopus citations


Retroviral gene transfer into human myeloid precursor cells allows introduction of marker genes as well as genes conferring resistance to chemotherapeutic drugs. We transduced a human mutant dihydrofolate reductase (DHFR) cDNA into CD34 antigen-positive peripheral blood cells from patients with breast or ovarian cancer obtained after treatment with chemotherapy and granulocyte colony-stimulating factor (G-CSF). This mutant DHFR has been shown to confer resistance to methotrexate (MTX) in murine bone marrow. We established a transduction protocol that permitted ex vivo expansion and selection of transduced early progenitor cells. The number of progenitor cells from transduced CD34-positive cells increased 50-fold after cytokine prestimulation with interleukin-1 (IL-1), c-kit ligand (KL; stem cell factor), and IL-3 and 2 weeks in liquid culture. Transduced colony-forming unit-granulocyte-macrophage (CFU-GM), assayed directly after the transduction procedure, were protected completely against 2 x 10-6 mol/L MTX, a concentration that significantly reduced the CFU-GM detected in the control population. Gene transfer of the mutant DHFR led to a twofold selective advantage for a pre-CFU population after exposure to MTX in liquid culture (P < .001). Polybrene, in contrast with protamine, significantly inhibited the expansion of progenitors. The presence of proviral DNA was monitored by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and was detected in greater than 80% of CFU- GM and ex vivo expanded pre-CFU. We have demonstrated that human hematopoietic precursor cells can be expanded extensively after retroviral gene transfer. The same population of early progenitors can be selected ex vivo with low-dose MTX. As long-term expression of transduced genes in human hematopoietic cells remains a problem in vivo, these results may have implications for future clinical trials, especially for the introduction of nonselectable genes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)566-574
Number of pages9
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 15 1995
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biochemistry
  • Immunology
  • Hematology
  • Cell Biology


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