More than two decades have passed since genetically modified HIV was used for gene delivery. Through continuous improvements these early marker gene-carrying HIVs have evolved into safer and more effective lentiviral vectors. Lentiviral vectors offer several attractive properties as gene-delivery vehicles, including: (i) sustained gene delivery through stable vector integration into host genome; (ii) the capability of infecting both dividing and non-dividing cells; (iii) broad tissue tropisms, including important gene- and cell-therapy-target cell types; (iv) no expression of viral proteins after vector transduction; (v) the ability to deliver complex genetic elements, such as polycistronic or intron-containing sequences; (vi) potentially safer integration site profile; and (vii) a relatively easy system for vector manipulation and production. Accordingly, lentivector technologies now have widespread use in basic biology and translational studies for stable transgene overexpression, persistent gene silencing, immunization, in vivo imaging, generating transgenic animals, induction of pluripotent cells, stem cell modification and lineage tracking, or site-directed gene editing. Moreover, in the present high-throughput ‘-omics’ era, the commercial availability of premade lentiviral vectors, which are engineered to express or silence genome-wide genes, accelerates the rapid expansion of this vector technology. In the present review, we assess the advances in lentiviral vector technology, including basic lentivirology, vector designs for improved efficiency and biosafety, protocols for vector production and infection, targeted gene delivery, advanced lentiviral applications and issues associated with the vector system.

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