Post-translational regulated and hypoxia-responsible VEGF plasmid for efficient secretion

Young Wook Won, Minhyung Lee, Hyun Ah Kim, David A. Bull, Sung Wan Kim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Gene therapy using angiogenic genes has emerged as a potentially viable alternative treatment strategy for myocardial ischemia. Non-specific expression of angiogenic genes, however, may result in side effects, including the growth of occult tumors. Regulation of gene expression may help to avoid the occurrence of these side effects. In this study, a plasmid expressing vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) was constructed with an oxygen dependent degradation (ODD) domain and a secretion signal peptide (SP) in order to stabilize the VEGF protein and facilitate the secretion of VEGF protein, specifically under hypoxic conditions. We found that this plasmid, pβ-SP-ODD-VEGF, expresses the SP-ODD-VEGF protein at increased levels under hypoxic conditions compared to normoxic conditions. Since the size of the ODD domain is almost the same as that of VEGF, the ODD-VEGF fusion protein may have lower secretion efficiency. To address this issue, a furin recognition site was located between the ODD domain and the VEGF site to facilitate elimination of the SP-ODD domain from the fusion protein before its secretion. This optimizes the likelihood that the VEGF secreted from the target cells will be wild-type VEGF. Treatment with a furin inhibitor reduced the secretion efficiency of the VEGF, indicating that furin digestion increases the secretion of VEGF. The secreted wild-type VEGF facilitated the growth of endothelial cells more efficiently under hypoxic conditions than normoxic conditions. These results suggest that this plasmid, pβ-SP-ODD-VEGF, warrants further study as a more efficient form of hypoxia-inducible gene therapy for the treatment of myocardial ischemia.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)525-531
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Controlled Release
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 28 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Gene therapy
  • Hypoxia
  • Myocardial ischemia
  • VEGF

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmaceutical Science


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