The Sleeping Beauty (SB) transposon system represents a new vector for non-viral gene transfer that melds advantages of viruses and other forms of naked DNA transfer. The transposon itself is comprised of two inverted terminal repeats of about 340 base pairs each. The SB system directs precise transfer of specific constructs from a donor plasmid into a mammalian chromosome. The excision of the transposon from a donor plasmid and integration into a chromosomal site is mediated by Sleeping Beauty transposase, which can be delivered to cells vita its gene or its mRNA. As a result of its integration in chromosomes, and its lack of viral sequences that are often detected by poorly understood cellular defense mechanisms, a gene in a chromosomally integrated transposon can be expressed over the lifetime of a cell. SB transposons integrate nearly randomly into chromosomes at TA-dinucleotide base pairs although the sequences flanking the TAs can influence the probability of integration at a given site. Although random integration of vectors into human genomes is often thought to raise significant safety issues, evidence to date does not indicate that random insertions of SB transposons represent risks that are equal to those of viral vectors. Here we review the activities of the SB system in mice used as a model for human gene therapy, methods of delivery of the SB system, and its efficacy in ameliorating disorders that model human disease.
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