Deciphering the Ets-1/2-mediated transcriptional regulation of F8 gene identifies a minimal F8 promoter for hemophilia A gene therapy.

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A major challenge in the development of a gene therapy for hemophilia A (HA) is the selection of cell type- or tissue-specific promoters to ensure factor VIII (FVIII) expression without eliciting an immune response. As liver sinusoidal endothelial cells (LSECs) are the major FVIII source, understanding the transcriptional F8 regulation in these cells would help optimize the minimal F8 promoter (pF8) to efficiently drive FVIII expression. In silico analyses predicted several binding sites (BS) for the E26 transformation-specific (Ets) transcription factors Ets-1 and Ets-2 in the pF8. Reporter assays demonstrated a significant up-regulation of pF8 activity by Ets-1 or Ets-1/Est-2 combination, while Ets2 alone was ineffective. Moreover, Ets-1/Ets-2-DNA binding domain mutants (DBD) abolished promoter activation only when the Ets-1 DBD was removed, suggesting that pF8 up-regulation may occur through Ets-1/Ets-2 interaction with Ets-1 bound to DNA. pF8 carrying Ets-BS deletions unveiled two Ets-BS essential for pF8 activity and response to Ets overexpression. Lentivirus-mediated delivery of GFP or FVIII cassettes driven by the shortened promoters led to GFP expression mainly in endothelial cells in the liver and to long-term FVIII activity without inhibitor formation in HA mice. These data strongly support the potential application of these promoters in HA gene therapy.

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