Virus Genes

, Volume 53, Issue 5, pp 714–722 | Cite as

The retroviral vector family: something for everyone

  • Carina Elsner
  • Jens BohneEmail author


After 30 years of retroviral vector research it became clear that the parental viruses can be both friend and foe. Especially human immunodeficiency virus sparked a global pandemic, but could be converted into a versatile tool for cell therapy. For all retroviral genera, the way from virus to vector was similar resulting in split-vector systems based on the separation of the genes needed for vector particle formation and transgene expression. The first gene therapy trials, although clinically effective, revealed the genotoxicity of retroviral vectors caused by insertional mutagenesis. This issue was solved using self-inactivating vectors carrying weaker cellular promoters. Further fine-tuning was able to generate inducible systems. The current toolbox also contains vectors for the generation of induced pluripotent stem cells or efficient RNA interference. More recently the application of CRISPR-Cas9-mediated gene editing led to the development of genome-wide small guide RNA libraries targeting all human genes and single lentiviral vectors for an easy delivery of Cas9.


Viral vectors Integration Cell therapy Reprogramming Cas9 Tet-system 



We would like to thank V. Melhorn for providing initial art work. This review was partially funded by the Else-Kröner-Fresenius-Stiftung given to J. B. (2014_A88).


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of VirologyHannover Medical SchoolHannoverGermany

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