Woodchuck hepatitis virus posttranscriptional regulatory element enhances expression of transgenes delivered by retroviral vectors
The expression of genes delivered by retroviral vectors is often inefficient, a potential obstacle for their widespread use in human gene therapy. Here, we explored the possibility that the posttranscriptional regulatory element of woodchuck hepatitis virus (WPRE) might help resolve this problem. Insertion of the WPRE in the 3' untranslated region of coding sequences carried by either oncoretroviral or lentiviral vectors substantially increased their levels of expression in a transgene-, promoter- and vector-independent manner. The WPRE thus increased either luciferase or green fluorescent protein production five- to eightfold, and effects of a comparable magnitude were observed with either the immediate-early cytomegalovirus or the herpesvirus thymidine kinase promoter and with both human immunodeficiency virus- and murine leukemia virus-based vectors. The WPRE exerted this influence only when placed in the sense orientation, consistent with its predicted posttranscriptional mechanism of action. These results demonstrate that the WPRE significantly improves the performance of retroviral vectors and emphasize that posttranscriptional regulation of gene expression should be taken into account in the design of gene delivery systems.