Viral Vectors

Constructing and packaging viral vectors for experimental gene delivery Read More


The Hope Center Viral Vectors Core provides lentiviral and AAV vectors and other services to Washington University investigators on a fee-for-service basis. Investigators from nonprofit/academic institutions outside Washington University may use Core Services as well. The Core has special expertise in the use of viral vectors for neuroscience applications. The Core also supervises shared molecular and cell culture equipment in the Hope Center. The goals of the Core are to provide the highest quality viral vectors available, to serve as a repository for the viral resources and expertise available at Washington University and to develop new vectors and reporters for neuroscience research.

New – Viral vectors for Optogenetics!

Optogenetics Vectors

Scroll down to learn about additional services and vectors available, as well as suggested language for acknowledging core use.


The Core assists investigators with the design and construction of lentiviral and AAV vectors, and with small or large scale viral packaging. We provide viruses expressing marker proteins for use in testing viral expression in different cell types and organs. Basic reporter vectors are available. Investigators should obtain Recombinant DNA approval from Environmental Health and Safety prior to using these vectors in their laboratories. Labs that have not yet obtained approval can perform some experiments in the Core facility with training and supervision by Core staff. Vectors are not available for for-profit or human diagnostic applications.

Lentiviral Vectors

Lentiviral vectors are now widely used for modeling brain diseases, for genetic pharmacology and for delivery of potential therapies into animal models. The Hope Center Viral Vectors Core uses third generation HIV-1 based lentiviral vectors. These vectors have been used successfully in rodent models of lysosomal storage diseases (Hofling et al., 2004) in cultured neurons (Lee et al., 2004) and in PNS cell types such as Schwann cells and dorsal root ganglion cultures (Abdulkadir et al., 2002Modur et al., 2002Araki et al., 2004Schalch et al., 2004Le et al., 2005Bermingham et al., 2006). Third generation lentiviral vectors offer several advantages: they readily transduce CNS neurons and glia, lymphocytes, endothelial cells and stem cells; they have very low toxicity, induce a minimal immune response, and are expressed for prolonged periods (6 months or longer, Blomer et al., 1997). Vectors used currently have a moderate cloning capacity (up to 8 kb) and can be generated with dual promoters or with internal ribosome entry sites (IRES) to enable expression of two transgenes from the same mRNA (e.g., the FCIV vector used here, see Araki et al., 2004).

Lentiviral vectors have also been very useful in the delivery of silencing RNAs. The core can help investigators design and construct new short hairpin RNAs (shRNA) for delivery in lentiviral vectors, or can package lentiviral shRNA vectors obtained from other sources, such as Sigma’s Mission shRNA.

Available lentiviral vectors

Adeno-associated virus (AAV) vectors

Adeno-associated virus is nonpathogenic in humans. Recombinant AAV vectors typically do not elicit a cellular immune response. AAV vectors are able to spread widely in vivo after injection and maintain long-term expression of transgenes. Various serotypes of AAV vectors allow tissue specific delivery of genes of interest (Cearley et al., 2005Harding et al., 2006). AAV vectors have become increasingly important in neuroscience research and clinical applications.

AAV vector serotypes 1, 2, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9 are available in the Core.  For AAV vector serotypes 7, 8 and 9, users must obtain an MTA from University of Pennsylvania before use.  The following promoters are available for each serotype of AAV vectors: CAB (chicken β actin promoter with CMV enhancer), SYN (synapsin), and GFAP (glial fibrillary acidic protein).  We will work with users to develop custom promoter constructs if needed.

Acknowledging the Core

The Viral Vectors Core has been supported by grants as well as the Hope Center for Neurological Disorders. Publications that include data from core use should acknowledge as appropriate (suggested language below).  Acknowledgements are crucial in tracking success of the core and obtaining future funding, and are required by the NIH Public Access Policy.


If your core use was after August 2013, then the suggested language is the following.

“This work was supported by the Hope Center Viral Vectors Core at Washington University School of Medicine.”

If your core use was before August 2013, then the suggested language should reference the Neuroscience Blueprint award.

“This work was supported by the Hope Center Viral Vectors Core and a P30 Neuroscience Blueprint Interdisciplinary Center Core award to Washington University (P30 NS057105).”


We always strive to improve services and resources offered by the Hope Center Cores.  To provide feedback, see contact information below.

Core Director: Mingjie Li
Faculty Supervisor: Joy Snider

ICTS funding option

Hope Center Core users may be eligible to apply for a Just-in-Time (JIT) award from the Washington University Institute of Clinical and Translational Sciences (ICTS). Faculty members without established funding for their projects are encouraged to apply for JIT funding through the ICTS. Visit the ICTS JIT webpage for additional details.

Contact Information

Initiating Use

Click below to learn more about available vectors, or for a new virus request form.  For questions, contact Mingjie Li.

NOTE:  Beginning July 2022, users must provide a cost center number when requesting a new virus.

New virus/service form

User Fees

Charges for Hope Center investigators are subsidized by the Hope Center. This subsidy will apply only if the billing PI is a Hope Center faculty member.

Current fee schedule