Purpose: A hypoxia-inducible VEGF expression system with the oxygen-dependent degradation (ODD) domain was constructed and tested to be used in gene therapy for ischemic myocardial disease. Methods: Luciferase and VEGF expression vector systems were constructed with or without the ODD domain: pEpo-SV-Luc (or pEpo-SV-VEGF) and pEpo-SV-Luc-ODD (or pEpo-SV-VEGF-ODD). In vitro gene expression efficiency of each vector type was evaluated in HEK 293 cells under both hypoxic and normoxic conditions. The amount of VEGF protein was estimated by ELISA. The VEGF expression vectors with or without the ODD domain were injected into ischemic rat myocardium. Fibrosis, neovascularization, and cardiomyocyte apoptosis were assessed using Masson's trichrome staining, α-smooth muscle actin (α-SMA) immunostaining, and the TUNEL assay, respectively. Results: The plasmid vectors containing ODD significantly improved the expression level of VEGF protein in hypoxic conditions. The enhancement of VEGF protein production was attributed to increased protein stability due to oxygen deficiency. In a rat model of myocardial ischemia, the pEpo-SV-VEGF-ODD group exhibited less myocardial fibrosis, higher microvessel density, and less cardiomyocyte apoptosis compared to the control groups (saline and pEpo-SV-VEGF treatments). Conclusion: An ODD-mediated VEGF expression system that facilitates VEGF-production under hypoxia may be useful in the treatment of ischemic heart disease.
- gene therapy
- hypoxia-inducible expression
- ischemic myocardium
- oxygen-dependent degradation domain
- vascular endothelial growth factor