Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type






First Advisor

Dr. George M. Smith


Lentiviral gene therapy has held great promise for treating a wide range of neurological disorders due to its ability to stably integrate into the genome of nondividing cells like neurons, in addition to dividing cells. The nervous system is a complex and highly heterogeneous system, and while a therapeutic intervention may have beneficial effects in one population of cells it may have severe side effects in another. For this reason, specific targeting of lentiviral vectors is crucial for their ultimate utility for research and clinical research use.

Two different approaches for focusing the targeting of lentiviral vectors were employed in these studies. The first method involved assessing the effects of vector production strategies on the resulting virus’s tropism both in vivo and in vitro. The changes in vector transduction were determined via flow cytometry on cells in culture and immunohistochemistry following brain injections. Results from these experiments suggest that while the production conditions do impact the vectors efficacy, there is not a distinct effect on their tropism.

A unique characteristic of retroviral and lentiviral vectors is their capacity for being pseudotyped, conferring a new tropism on the vector. Native tropisms are generally not specific beyond very broad cell types, which may not be sufficient for all applications. In this case, chimeric targeting molecules can provide an even more refined targeting profile compared to native pseudotypes.

The second approach utilizes novel chimeric glycoproteins made from nerve growth factor and the vesicular stomatitis virus glycoprotein. These chimeras are designed to pseudotype lentiviral vectors to target nociceptive sensory neurons for a variety of disorders. While these chimeras were successfully produced as protein, they were misfolded and sequestered in the endoplasmic reticulum and therefore unavailable to produce lentivirus.

While neither strategy was completely successful, they do provide interesting information for the design and creation of lentiviral vectors. This research shows that small differences in the steps followed as part of a lentivirus production protocol can greatly impact the resulting vectors efficacy. It also shows that while VSV has been used to create chimeric glycoproteins, not all targeting molecules are suitable for this purpose.