Amplification of retroviral vector sequences occurs in cocultures of ecotropic and amphotropic packaging cell lines. Mixed packaging line cocultures were used to determine both the host range and time of appearance of replication-competent virus after introduction of a retroviral vector. Replication-competent virus was generated at a characteristic time for a given ecotropic and amphotropic packaging line combination. The time required to generate replication-competent virus in a packaging line varied with the number of recombination events necessary to generate replication-competent virus from the retroviral sequences present in the line. The ψ2 packaging line generated replication-competent virus within 10 days after transfection of the N2 vector into a mixture of ψ2 (ecotropic) and PA317 (amphotropic) packaging cells. Under the same conditions, it took only 3 days to develop replication-competent virus in ψ2/PA12 cocultures. The host range of replication-competent virus was used to identify the packaging line that initially generates virus. Each packaging line combination generated replication-competent virus at a characteristic time and this time period can be used as a measure of the "safety" of the packaging line and vector combination.
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