Adenoviruses are common pathogens, mostly targeting ocular, gastrointestinal and respiratory cells, but in some cases infection disseminates, presenting in severe clinical outcomes. Upon dissemination and contact with blood, coagulation factor X (FX) interacts directly with the adenovirus type 5 (Ad5) hexon. FX can act as a bridge to bind heparan sulphate proteoglycans, leading to substantial Ad5 hepatocyte uptake. FX “coating” also protects the virus from host IgM and complement-mediated neutralisation. However, the contribution of FX in determining Ad liver transduction whilst simultaneously shielding the virus from immune attack remains unclear. In this study, we demonstrate that the FX protection mechanism is not conserved amongst Ad types, and identify the hexon hypervariable regions (HVR) of Ad5 as the capsid proteins targeted by this host defense pathway. Using genetic and pharmacological approaches, we manipulate Ad5 HVR interactions to interrogate the interplay between viral cell transduction and immune neutralisation. We show that FX and inhibitory serum components can co-compete and virus neutralisation is influenced by both the location and extent of modifications to the Ad5 HVRs. We engineered Ad5-derived HVRs into the rare, native non FX-binding Ad26 to create Ad26.HVR5C. This enabled the virus to interact with FX at high affinity, as quantified by surface plasmon resonance, FX-mediated cell binding and transduction assays. Concomitantly, Ad26.HVR5C was also sensitised to immune attack in the absence of FX, a direct consequence of the engineered HVRs from Ad5. In both immune competent and deficient animals, Ad26.HVR5C hepatic gene transfer was mediated by FX following intravenous delivery. This study gives mechanistic insight into the pivotal role of the Ad5 HVRs in conferring sensitivity to virus neutralisation by IgM and classical complement-mediated attack. Furthermore, through this gain-of-function approach we demonstrate the dual functionality of FX in protecting Ad26.HVR5C against innate immune factors whilst determining liver targeting.
Adenoviruses are mostly considered self-limiting pathogens associated with respiratory, gastrointestinal and ocular infections; however, in immunocompromised subjects disseminated Ad infection can occur with life-threatening consequences. Many human Ads are capable of binding to coagulation factor X (FX). Following intravenous administration in animal models, FX binds directly to the major Ad capsid protein, the hexon, which subsequently results in virus accumulation in the liver. FX coating Ad5 also acts to shield against immune neutralisation via natural IgM antibodies and the classical complement system. Here we show that FX protection is not a conserved mechanism amongst Ads and identify the Ad5 hexon hypervariable regions (HVR) as the capsid proteins targeted by this host defense pathway. Furthermore, we show that genetic inclusion of Ad5 HVRs onto a native non-FX binder Ad26 to be sufficient to confer sensitivity to immune attack in vitro and in vivo. Using intravenous administration, we determine the significance of FX binding to the Ad5-derived HVRs with respect to defending the virus from neutralisation whilst mediating virus tropism. Our study gives new insight into the role of the viral HVRs and of FX at the interface between virus and host defense mechanisms.