The failure of pharmacological approaches to cure infection with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) has renewed the interest in gene-based therapies. Among the various strategies that are currently explored, the blockade of HIV entry into susceptible T cells and macrophages promises to be the most powerful intervention. For long-term protection of both of these lineages, genetic modification of hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) would be required. Here, we tested whether HSCs and their progeny can be modified to express therapeutic levels of M87o, a gammaretroviral vector encoding an artificial transmembrane molecule that blocks fusion-mediated uptake of HIV. In serial murine bone marrow transplantations, efficient and multilineage expression of M87o was observed for more than 1 year (range 37-75% of mononuclear cells), without signs of toxicity related to the transmembrane molecule. To allow enrichment of M87o-modified HSCs after transplant, we constructed vectors coexpressing the P140K mutant of O6-methylguanine-DNA-methyltransferase (MGMT-P140K). This clinically relevant selection marker mediates a survival advantage in HSCs if exposed to combinations of methylguanine-methyltransferase (MGMT) inhibitors and alkylating agents. A bicistronic vector mediated sufficient expression of both M87o and MGMT to confer a selective survival advantage in the presence of HIV and alkylating agents, respectively. These data encourage further investigations in large animal models and clinical trials.

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Gene Therapy
Department of Hematology