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Open Access Highly Accessed Methodology

Engineering lentiviral vectors for modulation of dendritic cell apoptotic pathways

James CM Wang12, Tânia C Felizardo3, Bryan CY Au1, Daniel H Fowler3, Gregory A Dekaban45 and Jeffrey A Medin126*

Author Affiliations

1 University Health Network, Canadian Blood Services Building, 67 College St. Room 406, Toronto, Ontario M5G2M1, Canada

2 Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON M5S 1A8, Canada

3 Experimental Transplantation and Immunology Branch, National Cancer Institute, National Institute of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA

4 Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Western University, London, ON N6A 5C1, Canada

5 BioTherapeutics Research Laboratory, Robarts Research Institute, London, ON N6A 5K8, Canada

6 Institute of Medical Science and the Department of Medical Biophysics, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON M5S 1A8, Canada

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Virology Journal 2013, 10:240  doi:10.1186/1743-422X-10-240

Published: 20 July 2013



Dendritic cells (DCs) are promising mediators of anti-tumor immune responses due to their potent antigen-presentation capacity. Unfortunately, cancer cells can often disarm differentiated DCs by rendering them incapable of maturation or by promoting their apoptosis. DC vaccine regimens attempt to generate functional DCs and preload them with Tumor-Associated Antigens (TAAs) to target various malignancies. Despite these efforts, the efficacy of DC vaccines in clinical trials is still rather disappointing to date. In addition to undergoing cancer-induced apoptosis, it is well established that DCs are intrinsically short-lived cell types. It is likely that a significant portion of infused DCs undergo apoptosis prior to locating and activating naïve TAA-reactive T cells.


In our current study, we constructed and investigated novel bicistronic lentivectors (LVs) encoding the cDNA for the xeno-TAA, rat HER-2/neu (rHER-2), along with five candidate mouse DC survival factors (c-FLIPS, c-FLIPL, Bcl-XL, M11L, and AKT-1) that operate in both the extrinsic and intrinsic cycles of apoptosis. The murine DC cell line, DC2.4 was transduced separately with each novel LV construct. Infected cells were enriched via flow cytometric methods based on rHER-2 expression. Transduced DC2.4 cell lines were then exposed to Fetal Calf Serum (FCS) withdrawal and to specific pharmacological apoptosis-inducing agents. DC2.4 cell death was assayed based on Annexin V and PI double-positive staining via flow cytometry. The phenotype and function of transduced DC2.4 cells and primary bone marrow-derived DCs were then assessed via expression and secretion of DC markers and cytokines, respectively.


DC2.4 cells transduced with LVs encoding cDNAs for c-FLIPS, c-FLIPL, Bcl-XL, and M11L were protected from apoptosis when exposed to low FCS-containing culture media. When treated with an anti-CD95 antibody, only DC2.4 cells transduced with LVs encoding c-FLIPS and c-FLIPL were protected from apoptosis. In contrast, only DC2.4 cells transduced with LVs encoding Bcl-XL and M11L were protected from effects of staurosporine (STS) treatment. Also, LV-modified DCs maintained their original phenotype and function.


We present evidence that by employing novel recombinant bicistronic LVs we can simultaneously load DCs with a relevant TAA and block apoptosis; thereby confirming the usage of such LVs in the modulation of DC lifespan and function.

HER-2/neu; Lentivirus; Dendritic cell vaccine; Dendritic cell longevity/lifespan