Matrix attachment regions (MARs) are DNA sequences that may be involved in anchoring DNA/chromatin to the nuclear matrix and they have been described in both mammalian and plant species. MARs possess a number of features that facilitate the opening and maintenance of euchromatin. When incorporated into viral or non-viral vectors MARs can increase transgene expression and limit position-effects. They have been used extensively to improve transgene expression and recombinant protein production and promising studies on the potential use of MAR elements for mammalian gene therapy have appeared. These illustrate how MARs may be used to mediate sustained or higher levels of expression of therapeutic genes and/or to reduce the viral vector multiplicity of infection required to achieve consistent expression. More recently, the discovery of potent MAR elements and the development of improved vectors for transgene delivery, notably non-viral episomal vectors, has strengthened interest in their use to mediate expression of therapeutic transgenes. This article will describe the progress made in this field, and it will discuss future directions and issues to be addressed.
Keywords: Matrix attachment region, gene therapy, gene silencing, gene delivery systems, episomal vectors, stem cells, T cells
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