Modifying immune responses to adeno-associated virus vectors by capsid engineering.

De novo immune responses are considered major challenges in gene therapy. With the aim to lower innate immune responses directly in cells targeted by adeno-associated virus (AAV) vectors, we equipped the vector capsid with a peptide known to interfere with Toll-like receptor signaling. Specifically, we genetically inserted in each of the 60 AAV2 capsid subunits the myeloid differentiation primary response 88 (MyD88)-derived peptide RDVLPGT, known to block MyD88 dimerization. Inserting the peptide neither interfered with capsid assembly nor with vector production yield. The novel capsid variant, AAV2.MB453, showed superior transduction efficiency compared to AAV2 in human monocyte-derived dendritic cells and in primary human hepatocyte cultures. In line with our hypothesis, AAV2.MB453 and AAV2 differed regarding innate immune response activation in primary human cells, particularly for type I interferons. Furthermore, mice treated with AAV2.MB453 showed significantly reduced CD8+ T cell responses against the transgene product for different administration routes and against the capsid following intramuscular administration. Moreover, humoral responses against the capsid were mitigated as indicated by delayed IgG2a antibody formation and an increased NAb50. To conclude, insertion of the MyD88-derived peptide into the AAV2 capsid improved early steps of host-vector interaction and reduced innate and adaptive immune responses.


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