Molecular dissection of mechanisms that govern the differentiated cardiac phenotype has, for cogent technical reasons, largely been undertaken to date in neonatal ventricular myocytes. To circumvent expected limitations of other methods, the present study was initiated to determine whether replication-deficient adenovirus would enable efficient gene transfer to adult cardiac cells in culture. Adult rat ventricular myocytes were infected, 24 h after plating, with adenovirus type 5 containing a cytomegalovirus immediate-early promoter-driven lacZ reporter gene and were assayed for the presence of beta-galactosidase 48 h after infection. The frequency of lacZ+ rod-shaped myocytes was half-maximal at 4 x 10(5) plaque-forming units (PFU) and approached 90% at 1 x 10(8) PFU. Uninfected cells and cells infected with lacZ- virus remained colorless. Beta-galactosidase activity concurred with the proportion of lacZ+ cells and was contingent on the exogenous lacZ gene. At 10(8) PFU/dish, cell number, morphology, and viability each were comparable to uninfected cells. Thus, adult ventricular myocytes are amenable to efficient gene transfer with recombinant adenovirus. The relative uniformity for gene transfer by adenovirus should facilitate tests to determine the impact of putative regulators upon the endogenous genes and gene products of virally modified adult ventricular muscle cells.


L A Kirshenbaum, W R MacLellan, W Mazur, B A French, M D Schneider


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