Efficient and stable transgene expression in human embryonic stem cells using transposon-mediated gene transfer

Andrew Wilber, Jonathan L. Linehan, Xinghui Tian, Petter S. Woll, Julie K. Morris, Lalitha R. Belur, R. Scott McIvor, Dan S. Kaufman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

101 Scopus citations


Efficient and stable genetic modification of human embryonic stem (ES) cells is required to realize the full scientific and potential therapeutic use of these cells. Currently, only limited success toward this goal has been achieved without using a viral vector. The Sleeping Beauty (SB) transposon system mediates nonviral gene insertion and stable expression in target cells and tissues. Here, we demonstrate use of the nonviral SB transposon system to effectively mediate stable gene transfer in human ES cells. Transposons encoding (a) green fluorescent protein coupled to the zeocin gene or (b) the firefly luciferase (luc) gene were effectively delivered to undifferentiated human ES cells with either a DNA or RNA source of transposase. Only human ES cells cotransfected with transposon- and transposase-encoding sequences exhibited transgene expression after 1 week in culture. Molecular analysis of transposon integrants indicated that 98% of stable gene transfer resulted from transposition. Stable luc expression was observed up to 5 months in human ES cells cotransfected with a transposon along with either DNA or RNA encoding SB transposase. Genetically engineered human ES cells demonstrated the ability to differentiate into teratomas in vivo and mature hematopoietic cells in vitro while maintaining stable transgene expression. We conclude that the SB transposon system provides an effective approach with several advantages for genetic manipulation and durable gene expression in human ES cells.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2919-2927
Number of pages9
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2007


  • Bioluminescence imaging
  • Human embryonic stem cells
  • Nonviral integration
  • Sleeping beauty
  • Stable expression


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