Production of gal knockout/hA20 transgenic pigs with improved xenoprotective properties
Pig-to-human xenotransplantation is promising for overcoming the shortage of suitable human donor organs, but is hampered by immunological barriers. The next immunological hurdle is the acute vascular rejection (AVR), which is associated with activation of the endothelium and the coagulation system. Recently, we demonstrated that transgenic expression of the zinc finger protein A20 protects porcine cells against apoptotic and inflammatory stimuli (Oropeza et al. 2009 Xenotransplantation 16, 522–534). Compared with other anti-apoptotic proteins, A20 also has immune-modulatory potential as shown in an CD95(Fas)Ligand assay. However, in that study, hA20 was only expressed in skeletal muscle, heart and porcine aortic endothelial cells of transgenic pigs. For use in xenotransplantation, it is critical to produce pigs with ubiquitous expression of hA20. Here, we constructed a new vector based on the Sleeping Beauty transposon plasmid pT2/HB containing the hA20 cDNA driven by the ubiquitously and strongly expressing CAGGS-promoter and co-transfected gal–/– porcine fibroblasts (Hauschild et al. 2011 Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 108, 15 010) together with the SB transposase 100X plasmid (pT2/HB and SB transposase both kindly provided by Dr. Zoltan Ivics). Cells were selected with 400 µg of G418/mL of medium for 14 days. Subsequently, cells were screened by PCR. Transfected cell clones were pooled and used as donor cells in somatic cell nuclear transfer. Reconstructed embryos were transferred to 2 synchronized sows. Both remained pregnant on Day 25 of gestation. One recipient is expected to deliver in September 2012. The second sow, which received 104 embryos, was sacrificed on Day 26 of pregnancy and 2 fetuses could be obtained (cloning efficiency 1.92%). The fetuses had integrated the transgene into their genome as shown by PCR. Real-time PCR results from fetal fibroblasts indicated similar hA20 mRNA expression levels in both fetuses, whereas wild type controls were negative. The hA20 expression level was 2.5 and 3.1 times lower than in the original pooled of transfected cells. Fetus #1, which showed a slightly higher hA20 mRNA expression, was used for recloning. In total, 3 more recipients received an average of 104 hA20 transgenic embryos each. Currently, the hA20 protein level in fetal fibroblasts is determined by fluorescence activated cell sorting analysis. Once pigs are born, the tissue distribution of hA20 will be analysed. In parallel, the function of the transgene will be studied in the CD95(Fas)Ligand assay. Hearts and kidneys of the hA20-transgenic pigs will be further tested in ex vivo perfusion assays and in a pig-to-baboon xenotransplantation. This approach is promising for advancing pig-to-human xenotransplantation to preclinical application.