Viral Vectors

Viral vectors are commonly used to deliver nucleic acids into cells. They can be used for many applications such as chemogenetics, cell tracing, sensing neurotransmitters, generating stable cell lines, and large scale CRISPR screens. This section of the blog guides you through the different types of viral vectors and their applications.

Viral Vectors 101

New to using viral vectors? Not sure what they are or how to use them? Read our Viral Vector 101 blog posts for the basics on viral vectors.

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Adeno-associated virus (AAV)

Adeno-associated virus (AAV) is a single-stranded DNA, non-enveloped virus that infects both dividing and non-dividing cells. AAV is a popular choice for those working in vivo because it is only mildly immunogenic and remains primarily episomal, reducing the risk of insertional mutations. One drawback of AAV is its limited packaging capacity of only ~4.5Kb. Learn more about using AAVs in this section.

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Retroviral and Lentiviral Vectors

Retroviral vectors are commonly used for both in vitro and in vivo gene expression. Through reverse transcription, retroviruses integrate into a host cell's genome leading to long term transgene expression. This makes them useful tools for stable cell line generation. One downside of these vectors is that integration may lead to insertional mutagenesis and tumorigenesis. Lentiviruses are a class of retroviruses that have the benefit of infecting non-dividing cells in addition to dividing cells. They’re often used for CRISPR screens. In this section of the blog, find more about these vectors and how to use them in your experiment.

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Adenoviral Vectors

Unlike lentiviral and retroviral vectors, adenoviral vectors are non-integrative and transiently express the introduced genes into dividing and non-dividing cells. Adenoviral vectors are attractive gene delivery tools for those studying large genes as they can package up to 37kb. For more information on adenoviral vectors see the articles below.

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Addgene’s Viral Service

Viral production is a common step after requesting plasmids. Addgene’s AAV and lentiviral services eliminate this step and help save you time and get results faster. Check out these posts for behind-the-scenes insights on Addgene’s viral service. Our quarterly updates for new and upcoming items from the viral service are also posted here.

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Viral Vector Protocols and Tips

New to using viral vectors in the lab? Or perhaps you would like tips for troubleshooting your experiment? Read our viral vector protocols and tips blog posts for advice on using viral vectors in the lab.

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Optogenetics uses light to control protein activity. Ion channels that open and close in response to light are expressed in specific neurons to allow for activation or deactivation of these neurons in a precise manner. Light sensitive protein domains can also be fused to a protein of interest to create an optical switch for controlling protein interactions, localization or activity of that protein.

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Chemogenetic uses receptors that are activated by small molecules to activate or inhibit cellular responses. These receptors are activated by a synthetic small molecule of interest and are typically unresponsive to native ligands which enables specific control of cell activity with limited off-target effects. While popular in neuroscience, chemogenetic receptors have also been used in other cell types.

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Cell Tracing

Cell tracing allows for tracking of cells at a single cell level. Neurons and their projections are often traced via fluorescent protein expression. Tracing the lineage of a cell allows for the identification of all progeny of that cell.

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Neuroscience Biosensors

Biosensors monitor a process or detect a given molecule. Neuroscientists have developed many biosensors to detect neurotransmitters such as dopamine or to detect other signaling molecules like calcium. Learn more about Addgene’s growing collection of biosensors.

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