Construction and characterization of retroviral vectors expressing biologically active human interleukin-12

Laurence Zitvogel, Hideaki Tahara, Quan Cai, Walter J. Storkus, Gunhild Muller, Stanley F. Wolf, Maurice Gately, Paul D. Robbins, Michael T. Lotze

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132 Scopus citations


Interleukin-12 (IL-12) is a heterodimeric cytokine originally defined by its ability to induce the maturation of cytolytic lymphocytes and by its capacity to effectively synergize with IL-2 in the induction of cytolytic activity. Recent studies in mice have demonstrated the ability of IL-12 to cause tumor regression and stimulate long-term antitumor immunity in treated animals. To examine the antitumor effect of direct gene transfer of IL-12 into tumors, we have developed retroviral vectors that coordinately express both subunits of IL-12. An MFG-based retroviral vector was used to generate a recombinant retrovirus in which a long terminal repeat (LTR)-driven polycistronic transcript encodes both subunits of human IL-12:hp35 and hp40 cDNAs are linked and coexpressed using the internal ribosome entry site (IRES) from the encephalomyocarditis virus (DFG-hIL-12), In addition, two IRES sequences were used to express both subunits of IL-12 and a neomycin resistance (neo(R)) selectable marker gene from the same polycistronic message (TFG-hIL-121). The amphotropic DFG-hIL-12 and TPG-hIL-12 viruses were used to infect both human and murine cell lines as well as primary tumor cultures. The production of human IL-12 by the nonselected, infected cells was measured in both a PHA blast proliferation bioassay and an ELISA and ranged from 15 to 40 ng/106 cells per 24 hr. Following G418 selection of TFG-hIL-12-infected cells, the level of expression of IL-12 was significantly higher (up to 120 ng/106 cells per 24 hr), The IL-12 protein secreted by the infected cells exhibited all of the biologic activities of recombinant hIL-12: proliferation of activated natural killer (NK) and T cells, stimulation of interferon-γ (IFN-γ) induction by NK and T cells, and enhancement of lymphokine-activated killer (LAK) activity. These retroviral vectors expressing human IL-12 should be useful in evaluating the biological properties of IL-12 as well as for use in clinical trials for gene therapy of patients with cancer.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1493-1506
Number of pages14
JournalHuman gene therapy
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1994
Externally publishedYes


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