The production of viral vectors designed to express large and difficult to express transgenes within neurons

Roopashri Holehonnur, Srihari K. Lella, Anthony Ho, Jonathan A. Luong, Jonathan E. Ploski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Background: Viral vectors are frequently used to deliver and direct expression of transgenes in a spatially and temporally restricted manner within the nervous system of numerous model organisms. Despite the common use of viral vectors to direct ectopic expression of transgenes within the nervous system, creating high titer viral vectors that are capable of expressing very large transgenes or difficult to express transgenes imposes unique challenges. Here we describe the development of adeno-associated viruses (AAV) and lentiviruses designed to express the large and difficult to express GluN2A or GluN2B subunits of the N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor (NMDA) receptor, specifically within neurons. Results: We created a number of custom designed AAV and lentiviral vectors that were optimized for large transgenes, by minimizing DNA sequences that were not essential, utilizing short promoter sequences of 8 widely used promoters (RSV, EFS, TRE3G, 0.4αCaMKII, 1.3αCaMKII, 0.5Synapsin, 1.1Synapsin and CMV) and utilizing a very short (~75 bps) 3′ untranslated sequence. Not surprisingly these promoters differed in their ability to express the GluN2 subunits, however surprisingly we found that the neuron specific synapsin and αCaMKII, promoters were incapable of conferring detectable expression of full length GluN2 subunits and detectable expression could only be achieved from these promoters if the transgene included an intron or if the GluN2 subunit transgenes were truncated to only include the coding regions of the GluN2 transmembrane domains. Conclusions: We determined that viral packaging limit, transgene promoter and the presence of an intron within the transgene were all important factors that contributed to being able to successfully develop viral vectors designed to deliver and express GluN2 transgenes in a neuron specific manner. Because these vectors have been optimized to accommodate large open reading frames and in some cases contain an intron to facilitate expression of difficult to express transgenes, these viral vectors likely could be useful for delivering and expressing many large or difficult to express transgenes in a neuron specific manner.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number7
JournalMolecular Brain
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 24 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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