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Rationally designed AAV2 and AAVrh8R capsids provide improved transduction in the retina and brain

Abstract

The successful application of adeno-associated virus (AAV) gene delivery vectors as a therapeutic paradigm will require efficient gene delivery to the appropriate cells in affected organs. In this study, we utilized a rational design approach to introduce modifications to the AAV2 and AAVrh8R capsids and the resulting variants were evaluated for transduction activity in the retina and brain. The modifications disrupted either capsid/receptor binding or altered capsid surface charge. Specifically, we mutated AAV2 amino acids R585A and R588A, which are required for binding to its receptor, heparan sulfate proteoglycans, to generate a variant referred to as AAV2-HBKO. In contrast to parental AAV2, the AAV2-HBKO vector displayed low-transduction activity following intravitreal delivery to the mouse eye; however, following its subretinal delivery, AAV2-HBKO resulted in significantly greater photoreceptor transduction. Intrastriatal delivery of AAV2-HBKO to mice facilitated widespread striatal and cortical expression, in contrast to the restricted transduction pattern of the parental AAV2 vector. Furthermore, we found that altering the surface charge on the AAVrh8R capsid by modifying the number of arginine residues on the capsid surface had a profound impact on subretinal transduction. The data further validate the potential of capsid engineering to improve AAV gene therapy vectors for clinical applications.

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Acknowledgements

We would like to acknowledge the Sanofi Vector Production Group (Denise Woodcock, Shelley Nass and Maryellen Mattingly) for producing the AAV vectors used in these studies.

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Correspondence to Jennifer A. Sullivan.

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Sullivan, J.A., Stanek, L., Lukason, M. et al. Rationally designed AAV2 and AAVrh8R capsids provide improved transduction in the retina and brain. Gene Ther 25, 205–219 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41434-018-0017-8

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