Difficulties associated with in vitro manipulation and culture of the early chicken embryo have restricted generation of transgenic chickens to approaches that use replication-competent retroviruses. The need to produce transgenic chickens in the absence of replicating virus prompted development of a new method of gene transfer into the chicken. Microinjection of the replication-defective reticuloendotheliosis virus (REV) vector ME111 beneath unincubated chicken embryo blastoderms results in infection of germline stem cells. This vector contains genetic information exogenous to the chicken genome, including both the herpes simplex virus type 1 thymidine kinase gene and the Tn5 neomycin phosphotransferase gene. About 8 percent of male birds hatched from injected embryos contained vector DNA in their semen. All four positive males tested passed vector sequences onto their progeny. Analysis of G1 offspring showed that gonads of G0 male birds were mosaic with respect to insertion of vector provirus. Thus, primordial germ cells present in the unincubated chicken embryo blastoderm are susceptible to infection by defective REV vectors.

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