The HI loop is a prominent domain on the adeno-associated virus (AAV) capsid surface that extends from each viral protein (VP) subunit overlapping the neighboring fivefold VP. Despite the highly conserved nature of the residues at the fivefold pore, the HI loops surrounding this critical region vary significantly in amino acid sequence between the AAV serotypes. In order to understand the role of this unique capsid domain, we ablated side chain interactions between the HI loop and the underlying EF loop in the neighboring VP subunit by generating a collection of deletion, insertion, and substitution mutants. A mutant lacking the HI loop was unable to assemble particles, while a substitution mutant (10 glycine residues) assembled particles but was unable to package viral genomes. Substitution mutants carrying corresponding regions from AAV1, AAV4, AAV5, and AAV8 yielded (i) particles with titers and infectivity identical to those of AAV2 (AAV2 HI1 and HI8), (ii) particles with a decreased virus titer (1 log) but normal infectivity (HI4), and (iii) particles that synthesized VPs but were unable to assemble into intact capsids (HI5). AAV5 HI is shorter than all other HI loops by one amino acid. Replacing the missing residue (threonine) in AAV2 HI5 resulted in a moderate particle assembly rescue. In addition, we replaced the HI loop with peptides varying in length and amino acid sequence. This region tolerated seven-amino-acid peptide substitutions unless they spanned a conserved phenylalanine at amino acid position 661. Mutation of this highly conserved phenylalanine to a glycine resulted in a modest decrease in virus titer but a substantial decrease (1 log order) in infectivity. Subsequently, confocal studies revealed that AAV2 F661G is incapable of efficiently completing a key step in the infectious pathway nuclear entry, hinting at a possible perturbation of VP1 phospholipase activity. Molecular modeling studies with the F661G mutant suggest that disruption of interactions between F661 and an underlying P373 residue in the EF loop of the neighboring subunit might adversely affect incorporation of the VP1 subunit at the fivefold axis. Western blot analysis confirmed inefficient incorporation of VP1, as well as a proteolytically processed VP1 subunit that could account for the markedly reduced infectivity. In summary, our studies show that the HI loop, while flexible in amino acid sequence, is critical for AAV capsid assembly, proper VP1 subunit incorporation, and viral genome packaging, all of which implies a potential role for this unique surface domain in viral infectivity.
Viral capsid dynamics are often observed during infectious events such as cell surface attachment, entry and genome release. Structural analysis of adeno-associated virus (AAV), a helper-dependent parvovirus, revealed a cluster of surface-exposed tyrosine residues at the icosahedral two-fold symmetry axis. We exploited the latter observation to carry out selective oxidation of Tyr residues, which yielded crosslinked viral protein (VP) subunit dimers, effectively “stitching” together the AAV capsid two-fold interface. Characterization of different Tyr-to-Phe mutants confirmed that the formation of crosslinked VP dimers is mediated by dityrosine adducts and requires the Tyr704 residue, which crosses over from one neighboring VP subunit to the other. When compared to unmodified capsids, Tyr-crosslinked AAV displayed decreased transduction efficiency in cell culture. Surprisingly, further biochemical and quantitative microscopy studies revealed that restraining the two-fold interface hinders externalization of buried VP N-termini, which contain a phospholipase A2 domain and nuclear localization sequences critical for infection. These adverse effects caused by tyrosine oxidation support the notion that interfacial dynamics at the AAV capsid two-fold symmetry axis play a role in externalization of VP N-termini during infection.
Infection of cells with adeno-associated virus (AAV) type 2 (AAV-2) is mediated by binding to heparan sulfate proteoglycan and can be competed by heparin. Mutational analysis of AAV-2 capsid proteins showed that a group of basic amino acids (arginines 484, 487, 585, and 588 and lysine 532) contribute to heparin and HeLa cell binding. These amino acids are positioned in three clusters at the threefold spike region of the AAV-2 capsid. According to the recently resolved atomic structure for AAV-2, arginines 484 and 487 and lysine 532 on one site and arginines 585 and 588 on the other site belong to different capsid protein subunits. These data suggest that the formation of the heparin-binding motifs depends on the correct assembly of VP trimers or even of capsids. In contrast, arginine 475, which also strongly reduces heparin binding as well as viral infectivity upon mutation to alanine, is located inside the capsid structure at the border of adjacent VP subunits and most likely influences heparin binding indirectly by disturbing correct subunit assembly. Computer simulation of heparin docking to the AAV-2 capsid suggests that heparin associates with the three basic clusters along a channel-like cavity flanked by the basic amino acids. With few exceptions, mutant infectivities correlated with their heparin- and cell-binding properties. The tissue distribution in mice of recombinant AAV-2 mutated in R484 and R585 indicated markedly reduced infection of the liver, compared to infection with wild-type recombinant AAV, but continued infection of the heart. These results suggest that although heparin binding influences the infectivity of AAV-2, it seems not to be necessary.
Muscle is an attractive target for gene delivery because of its mass and because vectors can be delivered in a noninvasive fashion. Adeno-associated virus (AAV) has been shown to be effective for muscle-targeted gene transfer. Recent progress in characterization of AAV serotype 1 (AAV1) and AAV6 demonstrated that these two AAV serotypes are far more efficient in transducing muscle than is the traditionally used AAV2. Since all cis elements are identical in these vectors, the potential determinants for their differences in transducing muscle appear to be located within the AAV capsid proteins. In the present study, a series of AAV capsid mutants were generated to identify the major regions affecting AAV transduction efficiency in muscle. Replacement of amino acids 350 to 736 of AAV2 VP1 with the corresponding amino acids from VP1 of AAV1 resulted in a hybrid vector that behaved very similarly to AAV1 in vitro and in vivo in muscle. Characterization of additional mutants carrying smaller regions of the AAV1 VP1 amino acid sequence in the AAV2 capsid protein suggested that amino acids 350 to 430 of VP1 function as a major tissue tropism determinant. Further analysis showed that the heparin binding domain and the major antigenic determinants in the AAV capsid region were not necessary for the efficiency of AAV1 transduction of muscle.
Production of large quantities of recombinant adeno-associated virus (AAV) is difficult and not cost-effective. To overcome this problem, we have explored the feasibility of creating a recombinant AAV encoding a 6×His tag on the VP3 capsid protein. We generated a plasmid vector containing a six-His (6×His)-tagged AAV VP3. A second plasmid vector was generated that contained the full-length AAV capsid capable of producing VP1 and VP2, but not VP3 due to a mutation at position 2809 that encodes the start codon for VP3. These plasmids, necessary for production of AAV, were transfected into 293 cells to generate a 6×His-tagged VP3mutant recombinant AAV. The 6×His-tagged VP3 did not affect the formation of AAV virus, and the physical properties of the 6×His-modified AAV were equivalent to those of wild-type particles. The 6×His-tagged AAV did not affect the production titer of recombinant AAV and could be used to purify the recombinant AAV using an Ni-nitrilotriacetic acid column. Addition of the 6×His tag did not alter the viral tropism compared to wild-type AAV. These observations demonstrate the feasibility of producing high-titer AAV containing a 6×His-tagged AAV VP3 capsid protein and to utilize the 6×His-tagged VP3 capsid to achieve high-affinity purification of this recombinant AAV.
Vectors based on the adeno-associated virus are attractive and versatile vehicles for in vivo gene transfer. The virus capsid is the primary interface with the cell that defines many pharmacological, immunological and molecular properties. Determinants of these interactions are often restricted to a limited number of capsid amino acids. In this study, a portfolio of novel AAV vectors was developed following a structure-function analysis of naturally occurring AAV capsid isolates. Singletons, which are particular residues on the AAV capsid that were variable in otherwise conserved amino acid positions were found to impact on vector's ability to be manufactured or to transduce. Data for those residues that mapped to monomer-monomer interface regions on the particle structure suggested a role in particle assembly. The change of singleton residues to the conserved amino acid resulted in the rescue of many isolates that were defective upon initial isolation. This led to the development of an AAV vector portfolio that encompasses 6 different clades and 3 other distinct AAV niches. Evaluation of the in vivo gene transfer efficiency of this portfolio following intravenous and intramuscular administration highlighted a clade-specific tropism. These studies further the design and selection of AAV capsids for gene therapy applications.
gene transfer; gene therapy; adeno-associated viruses; AAV; vector; capsid; muscle; liver
Single-stranded genomes of adeno-associated virus (AAV) are packaged into preformed capsids. It has been proposed that packaging is initiated by interaction of genome-bound Rep proteins to the capsid, thereby targeting the genome to the portal of encapsidation. Here we describe a panel of mutants with amino acid exchanges in the pores at the fivefold axes of symmetry on AAV2 capsids with reduced packaging and reduced Rep-capsid interaction. Mutation of two threonines at the rim of the fivefold pore nearly completely abolished Rep-capsid interaction and packaging. This suggests a Rep-binding site at the highly conserved amino acids at or close to the pores formed by the capsid protein pentamers. A different mutant (P. Wu, W. Xiao, T. Conlon, J. Hughes, M. Agbandje-McKenna, T. Ferkol, T. Flotte, and N. Muzyczka, J. Virol. 74:8635-8647, 2000) with an amino acid exchange at the interface of capsid protein pentamers led to a complete block of DNA encapsidation. Analysis of the capsid conformation of this mutant revealed that the pores at the fivefold axes were occupied by VP1/VP2 N termini, thereby preventing DNA introduction into the capsid. Nevertheless, the corresponding capsids had more Rep proteins bound than wild-type AAV, showing that correct Rep interaction with the capsid depends on a defined capsid conformation. Both mutant types together support the conclusion that the pores at the fivefold symmetry axes are involved in genome packaging and that capsid conformation-dependent Rep-capsid interactions play an essential role in the packaging process.
A new adeno-associated virus (AAV), referred to as AAV(VR-942), has been isolated as a contaminant of adenovirus strain simian virus 17. The sequence of the rep gene places it in the AAV serotype 2 (AAV2) complementation group, while the capsid is only 88% identical to that of AAV2. High-level AAV(VR-942) transduction activity requires cell surface heparan sulfate proteoglycans, although AAV(VR-942) lacks residues equivalent to the AAV2 R585 and R588 amino acid residues essential for mediating the interaction of AAV2 with the heparan sulfate proteoglycan receptor. Instead, AAV(VR-942) uses a distinct transduction region. This finding shows that distinct domains on different AAV isolates can be responsible for the same activities.
Hepatitis B virus “e-antigen” is thought to be a soluble dimeric protein that is associated with chronic infection. It shares 149 residues with the viral capsid protein “core-antigen”, but has an additional ten-residue, hydrophobic, cysteine-containing amino-terminal propeptide whose presence correlates with physical, serological, and immunological differences between the two proteins. In core-antigen dimers, the subunits pair by forming a four-helix bundle stabilized by an inter-molecular disulfide bond. The structure of e-antigen is probably similar, but instead has two intra-molecular disulfide bonds involving the propeptide. To compare the proteins directly, and thereby clarify the role of the propeptide, mutations and solution conditions were identified that render both proteins as either soluble dimers or assembled capsids. Thermally induced unfolding monitored by circular dichroism, and electrophoresis of oxidized and reduced dimers, showed that the propeptide has a destabilizing effect, and that the intra-molecular disulfide bond forms preferentially and blocks the formation of the inter-molecular disulfide bond that otherwise stabilizes the dimer. The e-antigen capsids are less regular than core-antigen capsids; nevertheless, cryo-EM reconstructions confirm that they are constructed of dimers resembling those of core-antigen capsids. In them, a portion of the propeptide is visible near the dimer interface, suggesting that it intercalates there, consistent with the known formation of a disulfide bond between C(−7) in the propeptide and C61 in the dimer interface. However, this intercalation distorts the dimer into an assembly-reluctant conformation.
HBeAg; HBcAg; thermal stability; circular dichroism; cryo-EM
Previous reports have shown that site-directed mutagenesis of surface-exposed tyrosine residues on the capsid of AAV2 leads to enhanced transduction efficiency. In this report, Li and colleagues use these AAV2 tyrosine mutants and demonstrate that they are capable of transducing up to 90% of mouse and human bone marrow derived mesenchymal stem cells.
Adeno-associated virus 2 (AAV2) vectors transduce fibroblasts and mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) inefficiently, which limits their potential widespread applicability in combinatorial gene and cell therapy. We have reported that AAV2 vectors fail to traffic efficiently to the nucleus in murine fibroblasts. We have also reported that site-directed mutagenesis of surface-exposed tyrosine residues on viral capsids leads to improved intracellular trafficking of the mutant vectors, and the transduction efficiency of the single tyrosine-mutant vectors is ∼10-fold higher in human cells. In the current studies, we evaluated the transduction efficiency of single as well as multiple tyrosine-mutant AAV2 vectors in murine fibroblasts. Our results indicate that the Y444F mutant vectors transduce these cells most efficiently among the seven single-mutant vectors, with >30-fold increase in transgene expression compared with the wild-type vectors. When the Y444F mutation is combined with additional mutations (Y500F and Y730F), the transduction efficiency of the triple-mutant vectors is increased by ∼130-fold and the viral intracellular trafficking is also significant improved. Similarly, the triple-mutant vectors are capable of transducing up to 80–90% of bone marrow-derived primary murine as well as human MSCs. Thus, high-efficiency transduction of fibroblasts with reprogramming genes to generate induced pluripotent stem cells, and the MSCs for delivering therapeutic genes, should now be feasible with the tyrosine-mutant AAV vectors.
Fibroblasts and mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are promising targets for gene and cell therapy. Recombinant adeno-associated virus 2 (AAV2) vectors are currently in use in several Phase I/II clinical trials for gene therapy. However, the existing data show that AAV2 vector-mediated transduction of fibroblasts and MSCs is inefficient. We observed that AAV2 vectors containing mutations in three surface-exposed tyrosine residues significantly increase transduction efficiency in fibroblasts, as well as in both human and murine primary MSCs. The increased transduction efficiency of these triple-mutant AAV2 vectors correlates well with improved viral intracellular trafficking in fibroblasts. These data provide strong evidence that high-efficiency gene delivery and transgene expression by AAV vectors are indeed feasible, which should facilitate the generation of induced pluripotent stem cells, as well as the use of MSCs in combinatorial gene and cell therapy.
Adeno-associated virus (AAV) vectors have the potential to promote long-term gene expression. Unfortunately, humoral immunity restricts patient treatment and in addition provides an obstacle to the potential option of vector readministration. In this study, we describe a comprehensive characterization of the neutralizing antibody (NAb) response to AAV type 1 (AAV1) through AAV5 both in vitro and in vivo. These results demonstrated that NAbs generated from one AAV type are unable to neutralize the transduction of other types. We extended this observation by demonstrating that a rationally engineered, muscle-tropic AAV2 mutant containing 5 amino acid substitutions from AAV1 displayed a NAb profile different from those of parental AAV2 and AAV1. Here we found that a single insertion of Thr from AAV1 into AAV2 capsid at residue 265 preserved high muscle transduction, while also changing the immune profile. To better understand the role of Thr insertion at position 265, we replaced all 20 amino acids and evaluated both muscle transduction and the NAb response. Of these variants, 8 mutants induced higher muscle transduction than AAV2. Additionally, three classes of capsid NAb immune profile were defined based on the ability to inhibit transduction from AAV2 or mutants. While no relationship was found between transduction, amino acid properties, and NAb titer or its cross-reactivity, these studies map a critical capsid motif involved in all steps of AAV infectivity. Our results suggest that AAV types can be utilized not only as templates to generate mutants with enhanced transduction efficiency but also as substrates for repeat administration.
Mini-adenoviruses (mAd) deleted of all viral coding regions represent an emerging approach for transgene expression. We have exploited the unique features of the adeno-associated virus (AAV) terminal repeats within the context of an adenovirus–adeno-associated hybrid virus (Ad/AAV) as a strategy for rapid and efficient generation of mAd. Excision and generation of mAd from the parental Ad/AAV hybrid vector was achieved in 293 cells through recombination but without selection for mAd production. Analysis of mAd isolated from 293 cells indicated that mAd DNA exists as monomer and dimer forms within the recombinant viral capsid. Formation of recombinant mAd was significantly increased using an AAV Rep78- or Rep68-expressing cell line through Rep-mediated excision utilizing the AAV terminal repeat sequences present in the Ad/AAV hybrid virus genome. The mAd viruses were infectious and able to transfer functional gene to A549 and HeLa cells. This approach is rapid and efficient, thereby providing a simplified methodology for generating mAd with functional transducing capabilities.
Although most animal experiments with recombinant adeno-associated virus (AAV) vectors have been based on AAV serotype 2, recent studies showed that AAV vectors based on AAV serotype 1 performed more efficiently in muscle and other tissues. On the other hand, AAV2-based vectors can be readily purified by heparin column. To combine the advantages of both types of vectors, we developed a strategy to generate chimeric vectors by using a mixture of AAV helper plasmids encoding both serotypes in the transfection process. Because the AAV packaging machinery cannot distinguish between closely related AAV1 and AAV2 capsid proteins, each packaged virion contains capsid proteins from both serotypes. As expected, the resulting chimeric vectors could be purified by heparin column. Neutralizing antibody assays showed that the chimeric vectors can be inhibited by either AAV1 or AAV2 antiserum. In vivo, the chimeric vectors direct levels of expression similar to those of AAV1 in muscle or AAV2 in liver; that is, they combine the best transduction characteristics of both parent vectors. In summary, this study provides a straightforward method for combining various properties of different AAV serotypes into one vector. Potential limitations of the chimeric vectors are also discussed.
The virus-like particle (VLP) assembled from capsid subunits of the dragon grouper nervous necrosis virus (DGNNV) is very similar to its native T = 3 virion. In order to investigate the effects of four cysteine residues in the capsid polypeptide on the assembly/dissociation pathways of DGNNV virions, we recombinantly cloned mutant VLPs by mutating each cysteine to destroy the specific disulfide linkage as compared with thiol reduction to destroy all S–S bonds. The mutant VLPs of C187A and C331A mutations were similar to wild-type VLPs (WT-VLPs); hence, the effects of Cys187 and Cys331 on the particle formation and thermostability were presumably negligible. Electron microscopy showed that either C115A or C201A mutation disrupted de novo VLP formation significantly. As shown in micrographs and thermal decay curves, β-mercaptoethanol-treated WT-VLPs remained intact, merely resulting in lower tolerance to thermal disruption than native WT-VLPs. This thiol reduction broke disulfide linkages inside the pre-fabricated VLPs, but it did not disrupt the appearance of icosahedrons. Small dissociated capsomers from EGTA-treated VLPs were able to reassemble back to icosahedrons in the presence of calcium ions, but additional treatment with β-mercaptoethanol during EGTA dissociation resulted in inability of the capsomers to reassemble into the icosahedral form. These results indicated that Cys115 and Cys201 were essential for capsid formation of DGNNV icosahedron structure in de novo assembly and reassembly pathways, as well as for the thermal stability of pre-fabricated particles.
Nervous necrosis virus; Virus-like particle; Disulfide linkages; Reassembly
The replication (rep) gene of the human parvovirus adeno-associated virus (AAV) is a pleiotropic effector of numerous viral functions and experts profound effects on cellular transformation. Of the four Rep proteins, the primarily nuclear Rep78 and Rep68 direct AAV DNA replication, trans activation of the capsid (cap) gene promoter, and inhibition of cellular proliferation mediated by various oncogenes. In an initial attempt to define functional domains in Rep78, we have constructed a comprehensive set of XhoI linker insertion and deletion mutations in the rep gene. Each of the mutant genes has been expressed in cell culture and assayed for the following functions: (i) nuclear localization, (ii) AAV DNA replication, (iii) trans activation of the AAV capsid gene transcription promoter, and (iv) suppression of cellular transformation mediated by the adenovirus E1a and an activated ras oncogene pair. Modest disruptions in the normal conformation of Rep78 inactivated its AAV DNA replication function and trans activation of the cap gene promoter. Linker insertion mutations in the amino-terminal one-third of the protein inactivated Rep78's ability to suppress oncogene-mediated cellular transformation. The transformation suppression domains are not limited to the amino-terminal regions, however, since deletions throughout the protein altered its suppression capabilities. A putative nuclear localization signal that is essential for each of the above functions was found in the Rep proteins. These results provide a preliminary screening of the functional domains in the AAV Rep proteins and pave the way for more subtle mutational analysis.
A chemical approach for selective masking of arginine residues on viral capsids, featuring an exogenous glycation reaction has been developed. Reaction of adeno-associated viral (AAV) capsids with the α-dicarbonyl compound, methylglyoxal resulted in formation of arginine adducts. Specifically, surface exposed guanidinium side chains were modified into charge neutral hydroimidazolones, thereby disrupting a continuous cluster of basic amino acid residues implicated in heparan sulfate binding. Consequent loss in heparin binding ability and decrease in infectivity were observed. Strikingly, glycated AAV retained ability to infect neurons in the mouse brain and were redirected from liver to skeletal and cardiac muscle following systemic administration in mice. Further, glycated AAV displayed altered antigenicity demonstrating potential for evading antibody neutralization. Generation of unnatural amino acid side chains through capsid glycation might serve as an orthogonal strategy to engineer AAV vectors displaying novel tissue tropisms for gene therapy applications.
The simian virus 40 capsid is composed of 72 pentamers of VP1 protein. Although the capsid is known to dissociate to pentamers in vitro following simultaneous treatment with reducing and chelating agents, the functional roles of disulfide linkage and calcium ion-mediated interactions are not clear. To elucidate the roles of these interactions, we introduced amino acid substitutions in VP1 at cysteine residues and at residues involved in calcium binding. We expressed the mutant proteins in a baculovirus system and analyzed both their assembly into virus-like particles (VLPs) in insect cells and the disassembly of those VLPs in vitro. We found that disulfide linkages at both Cys-9 and Cys-104 conferred resistance to proteinase K digestion on VLPs, although neither linkage was essential for the formation of VLPs in insect cells. In particular, reduction of the disulfide linkage at Cys-9 was found to be critical for VLP dissociation to VP1 pentamers in the absence of calcium ions, indicating that disulfide linkage at Cys-9 prevents VLP dissociation, probably by increasing the stability of calcium ion binding. We found that amino acid substitutions at carboxy-terminal calcium ion binding sites (Glu-329, Glu-330, and Asp-345) resulted in the frequent formation of unusual tubular particles as well as VLPs in insect cells, indicating that these residues affect the accuracy of capsid assembly. In addition, unexpectedly, amino acid substitutions at any of the calcium ion binding sites tested, especially at Glu-157, resulted in increased stability of VLPs in the absence of calcium ions in vitro. These results suggest that appropriate affinities of calcium ion binding are responsible for both assembly and disassembly of the capsid.
Adeno-associated virus type 2 (AAV2) capsids show 12 pores at the fivefold axes of symmetry. We mutated amino acids which constitute these pores to investigate possible functions of these structures within the AAV2 life cycle. Mutants with alterations in conserved residues were impaired mainly in genome packaging or infectivity, whereas few mutants were affected in capsid assembly. The packaging phenotype was characterized by increased capsid-per-genome ratios. Analysis of capsid-associated DNA versus encapsidated DNA revealed that this observation was due to reduced and not partial DNA encapsidation. Most mutants with impaired infectivity showed a decreased capability to expose their VP1 N termini. As a consequence, the activation of phospholipase A2 (PLA2) activity, which is essential for efficient infection, was affected on intact capsids. In a few mutants, the exposure of VP1 N termini and the development of PLA2 activity were associated with enhanced capsid instability, which is obviously also deleterious for virus infection. Therefore, PLA2 activity seems to be required on intact capsids for efficient infection. In conclusion, these results suggest that the pores at the fivefold axes function not only as portals for AAV2 single-stranded DNA packaging but also as channels for presentation of the PLA2 domain on AAV2 virions during infection.
Adeno-associated viruses (AAVs) are leading candidate vectors for human gene therapy. AAV serotypes have broad cellular tropism and use a variety of cellular receptors. AAV serotype 3 binds to heparan sulfate proteoglycan prior to cell entry and is serologically distinct from other serotypes. The capsid features that distinguish AAV-3B from other serotypes are poorly understood. The structure of AAV-3B has been determined to 2.6Å resolution from twinned crystals of an infectious virus. The most distinctive structural features are located in regions implicated in receptor and antibody binding, providing insights into the cell entry mechanisms and antigenic nature of AAVs. We show that AAV-3B has a lower affinity for heparin than AAV-2, which can be rationalized by the distinct features of the AAV-3B capsid. The structure of AAV-3B provides an additional foundation for the future engineering of improved gene therapy vectors with modified receptor binding or antigenic characteristics.
Site-directed mutations of tyrosine (Y) to phenylalanine (F) on the surface of adeno-associated viral (AAV) capsids have been reported as a simple method to greatly enhance gene transfer in vitro and in vivo. To determine whether the Y-to-F mutation could also enhance AAV8 and AAV9 gene transfer in skeletal muscle and heart to facilitate muscular dystrophy gene therapy, we investigated four capsid mutants of AAV8 (Y447F or Y733F) and AAV9 (Y446F or Y731F). The mutants and their wild-type control AAV8 and AAV9 capsids were used to package reporter genes (luciferase or β-galactosidase) resulting in similar vector yields. To evaluate gene delivery efficiencies, especially in muscle and heart, the vectors were compared side by side in a series of experiments in vivo in two different strains of mice, the outbred ICR and the inbred C57BL/6. Because AAV8 and AAV9 are among the most effective in systemic gene delivery, we first examined the mutant and wild-type vectors in neonatal mice by intraperitoneal injection, or in adult mice by intravenous injection. To our surprise, no statistically significant differences in transgene expression were observed between the mutant and wild-type vectors, regardless of the reporter genes, vector doses, and the ages and strains of mice used. In addition, quantitative analyses of vector DNA copy number in various tissues from mice treated with mutant and wild-type vectors also showed similar results. Finally, direct intramuscular injection of the above-described vectors with the luciferase gene into the hind limb muscles revealed the same levels of gene expression between mutant and wild-type vectors. Our results thus demonstrate that a single mutation of Y447F or Y733F on capsids of AAV8, and of Y446F or Y731F on AAV9, is insufficient to enhance gene delivery to the skeletal muscle and heart.
Reengineering the receptor footprints of adeno-associated virus (AAV) isolates may yield variants with improved properties for clinical applications. We generated a panel of synthetic AAV2 vectors by replacing a hexapeptide sequence in a previously identified heparan sulfate receptor footprint with corresponding residues from other AAV strains. This approach yielded several chimeric capsids displaying systemic tropism after intravenous administration in mice. Of particular interest, an AAV2/AAV8 chimera designated AAV2i8 displayed an altered antigenic profile, readily traversed the blood vasculature, and selectively transduced cardiac and whole-body skeletal muscle tissues with high efficiency. Unlike other AAV serotypes, which are preferentially sequestered in the liver, AAV2i8 showed markedly reduced hepatic tropism. These features of AAV2i8 suggest that it is well suited to translational studies in gene therapy of musculoskeletal disorders.
Marker rescue, the restoration of gene function by replacement of a defective gene with a normal one by recombination, has been utilized to produce novel adeno-associated virus (AAV) vectors. AAV serotype 2 (AAV2) clones containing wild-type terminal repeats, an intact rep gene, and a mutated cap gene, served as the template for marker rescue. When transfected alone in 293 cells, these AAV2 mutant plasmids produced noninfectious AAV virions that could not bind heparin sulfate after infection with adenovirus dl309 helper virus. However, the mutation in the cap gene was corrected after cotransfection with AAV serotype 3 (AAV3) capsid DNA fragments, resulting in the production of AAV2/AAV3 chimeric viruses. The cap genes from several independent marker rescue experiments were PCR amplified, cloned, and then sequenced. Sequencing results confirmed not only that homologous recombination occurred but, more importantly, that a mixed population of AAV chimeras carrying 16 to 2,200 bp throughout different regions of the type 3 cap gene were generated in a single marker rescue experiment. A 100% correlation was observed between infectivity and the ability of the chimeric virus to bind heparin sulfate. In addition, many of the AAV2/AAV3 chimeras examined exhibited differences at both the nucleotide and amino acid levels, suggesting that these chimeras may also exhibit unique infectious properties. Furthermore, AAV helper plasmids containing these chimeric cap genes were able to function in the triple transfection method to generate recombinant AAV. Together, the results suggest that DNA from other AAV serotypes can rescue AAV capsid mutants and that marker rescue may be a powerful, yet simple, technique to map, as well as develop, chimeric AAV capsids that display different serotype-specific properties.
Adeno-associated virus type 2 (AAV2) capsid assembly requires the expression of a virally encoded assembly-activating protein (AAP). By providing AAP together with the capsid protein VP3, capsids are formed that are composed of VP3 only. Electron cryomicroscopy analysis of assembled VP3-only capsids revealed all characteristics of the wild-type AAV2 capsids. However, in contrast to capsids assembled from VP1, VP2, and VP3, the pores of VP3-only capsids were more restricted at the inside of the 5-fold symmetry axes, and globules could not be detected below the 2-fold symmetry axes. By comparing the capsid assembly of several AAV serotypes with AAP protein from AAV2 (AAP-2), we show that AAP-2 is able to efficiently stimulate capsid formation of VP3 derived from several serotypes, as demonstrated for AAV1, AAV2, AAV8, and AAV9. Capsid formation, by coexpressing AAV1-, AAV2-, or AAV5-VP3 with AAP-1, AAP-2, or AAP-5 revealed the ability of AAP-1 and AAP-2 to complement each other in AAV1 and AAV2 assembly, whereas for AAV5 assembly more specific conditions are required. Sequence alignment of predicted AAP proteins from the known AAV serotypes indicates a high degree of homology of all serotypes to AAP-2 with some divergence for AAP-4, AAP-5, AAP-11, and AAP-12. Immunolocalization of assembled capsids from different serotypes confirmed the preferred nucleolar localization of capsids, as observed for AAV2; however, AAV8 and AAV9 capsids could also be detected throughout the nucleus. Taken together, the data show that AAV capsid assembly of different AAV serotypes also requires the assistance of AAP proteins.
We have developed a new nonoverlapping infectious viral genome (NO-SV40) in order to facilitate structure-based analysis of the simian virus 40 (SV40) life cycle. We first tested the role of cysteine residues in the formation of infectious virions by individually mutating the seven cysteines in the major capsid protein, Vp1. All seven cysteine mutants—C9A, C49A, C87A, C104A, C207S, C254A, and C267L—retained viability. In the crystal structure of SV40, disulfide bridges are formed between certain Cys104 residues on neighboring pentamers. However, our results show that none of these disulfide bonds are required for virion infectivity in culture. We also introduced five different mutations into Cys254, the most strictly conserved cysteine across the polyomavirus family. We found that C254L, C254S, C254G, C254Q, and C254R mutants all showed greatly reduced (around 100,000-fold) plaque-forming ability. These mutants had no apparent defect in viral DNA replication. Mutant Vp1's, as well as wild-type Vp2/3, were mostly localized in the nucleus. Further analysis of the C254L mutant revealed that the mutant Vp1 was able to form pentamers in vitro. DNase I-resistant virion-like particles were present in NO-SV40-C254L-transfected cell lysate, but at about 1/18 the amount in wild-type-transfected lysate. An examination of the three-dimensional structure reveals that Cys254 is buried near the surface of Vp1, so that it cannot form disulfide bonds, and is not involved in intrapentamer interactions, consistent with the normal pentamer formation by the C254L mutant. It is, however, located at a critical junction between three pentamers, on a conserved loop (G2H) that packs against the dual interpentamer Ca2+-binding sites and the invading C-terminal helix of an adjacent pentamer. The substitution by the larger side chains is predicted to cause a localized shift in the G2H loop, which may disrupt Ca2+ ion coordination and the packing of the invading helix, consistent with the defect in virion assembly. Our experimental system thus allows dissection of structure-function relationships during the distinct steps of the SV40 life cycle.
For all adeno-associated virus (AAV) serotypes, 60 monomers of the Vp1, Vp2, and Vp3 structural proteins assemble via an unknown mechanism to form an intact capsid. In an effort to better understand the properties of the capsid monomers and their role in viral entry and infection, we evaluated whether monomers from distinct serotypes can be mixed to form infectious particles with unique phenotypes. This transcapsidation approach consisted of the transfection of pairwise combinations of AAV serotype 1 to 5 helper plasmids to produce mosaic capsid recombinant AAV (rAAV). All ratios (19:1, 3:1, 1:1, 1:3, and 1:19) of these mixtures were able to replicate the green fluorescent protein transgene and to produce capsid proteins. A high-titer rAAV was obtained with mixtures that included either serotype 1, 2, or 3, whereas an rAAV of intermediate titer was obtained from serotype 5 mixtures. Only mixtures containing the AAV4 capsid exhibited reduced packaging capacity. The binding profiles of the mixed-virus preparations to either heparin sulfate (HS) or mucin agarose revealed that only AAV3-AAV5 mixtures at the 3:1 ratio exhibited duality in binding. All other mixtures displayed either an abrupt shift or a gradual alteration in the binding profile to the respective ligand upon increase of a capsid component that conferred either HS or mucin binding. The transduction of cell lines was used to further evaluate the phenotypes of these transcapsidated virions. Three transduction profiles were observed: (i) small to no change regardless of ratio, (ii) a gradual increase in transduction consistent with titration of a second capsid component, or (iii) an abrupt increase in transduction (threshold effect) dependent on the specific ratios used. Interestingly, an unexpected synergistic effect in transduction was observed when AAV1 helper constructs were combined with type 2 or type 3 recipient helpers. Further studies determined that at least two components contributed to this observed synergy: (i) heparin-mediated binding from AAV2 and (ii) an unidentified enhancement activity from AAV1 structural proteins. Using this procedure of mixing different AAV helper plasmids to generate “cross-dressed” AAV virions, we propose an additional means of classifying new AAV serotypes into subgroups based on functional approaches to analyze AAV capsid assembly, receptor-mediated binding, and virus trafficking. Exploitation of this approach in generating custom-designed AAV vectors should be of significant value to the field of gene therapy.