, Volume 22, Issue 1-3, pp 169-178

Bcl-2 inhibits apoptosis and extends recombinant protein production in cells infected with Sindbis viral vectors

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Abstract

Viruses carrying foreign genes are often used for the production of recombinant proteins in mammalian cells and other eukaryotic expression systems. Though high levels of gene expression are possible using viral vectors, the host cell generally responds to the infection by inducing apoptotic cell death within several days, abruptly ending protein production. It has recently been demonstrated, however, that apoptosis can be suppressed in virally infected cells using anti-apoptotic genes, such as bcl-2. In this study, stably transfected rat carcinomal cell lines, AT3-bcl2 and AT3-neo, were infected with a Sindbis virus carrying the gene for chloramphenicol acetyltransferase (CAT) in an effort to determine the effect of bcl-2 on cell viability and recombinant protein production. Infected AT3-bcl2 cells consistently maintained viabilities close to 100% and a growth rate equivalent to that of uninfected cells (0.040 h-1). In contrast, the Sindbis viral vector induced apoptosis in the AT3-neo cells, which were all dead by three days post-infection. Though infected AT3-neo cells generated higher levels of heterologous protein, over 1000 mUnits per well, CAT activity fell to zero by two days post-infection. In contrast, chloramphenicol acetyltransferase was present in AT3-bcl2 cells for almost a week, reaching a maximum level of 580 mUnits per well. In addition, recombinant protein production in AT3-bcl2 cells was extended and amplified by the regular addition of virus to the culture medium, a process which resulted in expression for the duration of the cell culture process.