INTRODUCTION: The viral 2A sequence has become an attractive alternative to the traditional internal ribosomal entry site (IRES) for simultaneous over-expression of two genes and in combination with recombinant adeno-associated viruses (rAAV) has been used to manipulate gene expression in vitro.
NEW METHOD: To develop a rAAV construct in combination with the viral 2A sequence to allow long-term over-expression of the vgf gene and fluorescent marker gene for tracking of the transfected neurones in vivo.
RESULTS: Transient transfection of the AAV plasmid containing the vgf gene, viral 2A sequence and eGFP into SH-SY5Y cells resulted in eGFP fluorescence comparable to a commercially available reporter construct. This increase in fluorescent cells was accompanied by an increase in VGF mRNA expression. Infusion of the rAAV vector containing the vgf gene, viral 2A sequence and eGFP resulted in eGFP fluorescence in the hypothalamus of both mice and Siberian hamsters, 32 weeks post infusion. In situ hybridisation confirmed that the location of VGF mRNA expression in the hypothalamus corresponded to the eGFP pattern of fluorescence.
COMPARISON WITH OLD METHOD: The viral 2A sequence is much smaller than the traditional IRES and therefore allowed over-expression of the vgf gene with fluorescent tracking without compromising viral capacity.
CONCLUSION: The use of the viral 2A sequence in the AAV plasmid allowed the simultaneous expression of both genes in vitro. When used in combination with rAAV it resulted in long-term over-expression of both genes at equivalent locations in the hypothalamus of both Siberian hamsters and mice, without any adverse effects.