G-protein-coupled receptors as targets for gene transfer vectors using natural small-molecule ligands


Gene therapy for cystic fibrosis (CF) has focused on correcting electrolyte transport in airway epithelia. However, success has been limited by the failure of vectors to attach and enter into airway epithelia, and may require redirecting vectors to targets on the apical membrane of airway cells that mediate these functions. The G-protein-coupled P2Y2 receptor (P2Y2-R) is abundantly expressed on the airway lumenal surface and internalizes into coated pits upon agonist activation. We tested whether a small-molecule-agonist (UTP) could direct vectors to P2Y2-R and mediate attachment, internalization, and gene transfer. Fluorescein-UTP studies demonstrated that P2Y2-R agonists internalized with their receptor, and biotinylated UTP (BUTP) mediated P2Y2-R-specific internalization of fluorescently labeled streptavidin (SAF) or SAF conjugated to biotinylated Cy3 adenoviral-vector (BCAV). BUTP conjugated to BCAV mediated P2Y2-R-specific gene transfer in (1) adenoviral-resistant A9 and polarized MDCK cells by means of heterologous P2Y2-R, and (2) well-differentiated human airway epithelial cells by means of endogenous P2Y2-R. Targeting vectors with small-molecule-ligands to apical membrane G-protein-coupled receptors may be a feasible approach for successful CF gene therapy.

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Figure 1: Potency of UTP derivatives for the P2Y2-R.
Figure 2: The P2Y2-R internalizes with its ligand.
Figure 3: P2Y2-R internalizes BUTP conjugates.
Figure 4: BUTP–AdV conjugates mediate gene transfer in nonpolarized A9 cells.
Figure 5: BUTP conjugates internalize and mediate gene transfer in polarized MDCK cells.
Figure 6: BUTP conjugates mediate gene transfer in WD human nasal airway cells.


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We gratefully thank Dr. Larry Johnson for helpful discussions during the preparation of the manuscript, Kimberly Burns, Dr. John Carson, and Todd Gambling for the electron microscopy study, and L. Brown for manuscript editing. This work was supported by NIH grants HL34322 and HL51818 and CF Foundation grant S880.

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Correspondence to Silvia M. Kreda.

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Kreda, S., Pickles, R., Lazarowski, E. et al. G-protein-coupled receptors as targets for gene transfer vectors using natural small-molecule ligands. Nat Biotechnol 18, 635–640 (2000). https://doi.org/10.1038/76479

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