Improving clinical efficacy of adeno associated vectors by rational capsid bioengineering.
ABSTRACT: Adeno associated vectors (AAV) have shown considerable promise to treat various genetic disorders in both preclinical and clinical settings mainly because of its safety profile. However, efficient use of AAV to deliver genes in immune-competent sites like muscles and liver requires very high doses which are associated with concomitant cellular immune response against the viral capsids leading to destruction of the transduced cells. Coupled with that, there are enough evidences that at high doses, AAV particles are subjected to increased cellular phosphorylation/uniquitination leading to proteasome mediated degradation and loss of the viral particles. The presence of preexisting immunity against AAV further adds on to the problem which is acting as a major roadblock to efficiently use it as a gene therapy vector in the clinics. To overcome this, rational bioengineering of AAV capsid becomes a prime tool by which specific amino acid residue(s) can be suitably modified/replaced by compatible residue(s) to create vectors having lower host immune response and higher intracellular trafficking rate. This article reviews the various aspects of rationally designing AAV capsids like by site-directed mutagenesis, directed evolution and combinatorial libraries which can create vectors having not only immune evasive property but also enhanced gene expression and transduction capability. One or more combinations of these strategies have strong potential to create novel vectors which will have suitable clinical efficiency even at a low dose.
Project description:<h4>Background</h4>Adeno-associated virus (AAV) gene therapy vectors have shown the best outcomes in human clinical studies for the treatment of genetic diseases such as hemophilia. However, these pivotal investigations have also identified several challenges. For example, high vector doses are often used for hepatic gene transfer, and cytotoxic T lymphocyte responses against viral capsid may occur. Therefore, achieving therapy at reduced vector doses and other strategies to reduce capsid antigen presentation are desirable.<h4>Methods</h4>We tested several engineered AAV capsids for factor IX (FIX) expression for the treatment of hemophilia B by hepatic gene transfer. These capsids lack potential phosphorylation or ubiquitination sites, or had been generated through molecular evolution.<h4>Results</h4>AAV2 capsids lacking either a single lysine residue or 3 tyrosine residues directed substantially higher coagulation FIX expression in mice compared to wild-type sequence or other mutations. In hemophilia B dogs, however, expression from the tyrosine-mutant vector was merely comparable to historical data on AAV2. Evolved AAV2-LiC capsid was highly efficient in hemophilia B mice but lacked efficacy in a hemophilia B dog.<h4>Conclusions</h4>Several alternative strategies for capsid modification improve the in vivo performance of AAV vectors in hepatic gene transfer for correction of hemophilia. However, capsid optimization solely in mouse liver may not predict efficacy in other species and thus is of limited translational utility.
Project description:Recombinant adeno-associated virus 2 (AAV2) vectors are in use in several Phase I/II clinical trials, but relatively large vector doses are needed to achieve therapeutic benefits. Large vector doses also trigger an immune response as a significant fraction of the vectors fails to traffic efficiently to the nucleus and is targeted for degradation by the host cell proteasome machinery. We have reported that epidermal growth factor receptor protein tyrosine kinase (EGFR-PTK) signaling negatively affects transduction by AAV2 vectors by impairing nuclear transport of the vectors. We have also observed that EGFR-PTK can phosphorylate AAV2 capsids at tyrosine residues. Tyrosine-phosphorylated AAV2 vectors enter cells efficiently but fail to transduce effectively, in part because of ubiquitination of AAV capsids followed by proteasome-mediated degradation. We reasoned that mutations of the surface-exposed tyrosine residues might allow the vectors to evade phosphorylation and subsequent ubiquitination and, thus, prevent proteasome-mediated degradation. Here, we document that site-directed mutagenesis of surface-exposed tyrosine residues leads to production of vectors that transduce HeLa cells approximately 10-fold more efficiently in vitro and murine hepatocytes nearly 30-fold more efficiently in vivo at a log lower vector dose. Therapeutic levels of human Factor IX (F.IX) are also produced at an approximately 10-fold reduced vector dose. The increased transduction efficiency of tyrosine-mutant vectors is due to lack of capsid ubiquitination and improved intracellular trafficking to the nucleus. These studies have led to the development of AAV vectors that are capable of high-efficiency transduction at lower doses, which has important implications in their use in human gene therapy.
Project description:Gene delivery vectors based on adeno-associated virus (AAV) are highly promising due to several desirable features of this parent virus, including a lack of pathogenicity, efficient infection of dividing and non-dividing cells, and sustained maintenance of the viral genome. However, several problems should be addressed to enhance the utility of AAV vectors, particularly those based on AAV2, the best characterized AAV serotype. First, altering viral tropism would be advantageous for broadening its utility in various tissue or cell types. In response to this need, vector pseudotyping, mosaic capsids, and targeting ligand insertion into the capsid have shown promise for altering AAV specificity. In addition, library selection and directed evolution have recently emerged as promising approaches to modulate AAV tropism despite limited knowledge of viral structure-function relationships. Second, pre-existing immunity to AAV must be addressed for successful clinical application of AAV vectors. "Shielding" polymers, site-directed mutagenesis, and alternative AAV serotypes have shown success in avoiding immune neutralization. Furthermore, directed evolution of the AAV capsid is a high throughput approach that has yielded vectors with substantial resistance to neutralizing antibodies. Molecular engineering and directed evolution of AAV vectors therefore offer promise for generating 'designer' gene delivery vectors with enhanced properties.
Project description:Transfer of genes by adeno-associated virus (AAV) vectors is benefiting patients with particular genetic defects. Challenges remain by rejection of AAV-transduced cells, which may be caused by CD8<sup>+</sup> T lymphocytes directed to AAV capsid antigens. Reducing the number of CpG motifs from the genome of AAV vectors reduces expansion of naive T cells directed against an epitope within the capsid. In contrast, AAV capsid-specific memory CD8<sup>+</sup> T cells respond more vigorously to AAV vectors lacking CpG motifs than to those with CpG motifs presumably reflecting dampening of T cell expansion by cytokines from the innate immune system. Depending on the purification method, AAV vector preparations can contain substantial amounts of empty AAV particles that failed to package the genome. Others have used empty particles as decoys to AAV-neutralizing antibodies. We tested if empty AAV vectors given alone or mixed with genome-containing AAV vectors induce proliferation of naive or memory CD8<sup>+</sup> T cells directed to an antigen within an AAV capsid. Naive CD8<sup>+</sup> T cells failed to respond to empty AAV vectors, which in contrast induced expansion of AAV-specific memory CD8<sup>+</sup> T cells.
Project description:Adeno-associated virus (AAV) vectors have emerged as a safe and efficient gene therapy platform. One complication is that a significant amount of empty particles have always been generated as impurities during AAV vector production. However, the effects of such particles on AAV vector performance remain unclear. Here we systemically evaluated the biological properties of three types of "empty" AAV particles: syngeneic pseudo-vectors with partial AAV genomes derived from DNA of the corresponding full particles, allogeneic pseudo-vectors with partial genomes different from the corresponding full particles, and null pseudo-vectors with no DNA inside the capsids. The syngeneic particles in excess increased the corresponding full AAV vector transgene expression both in vivo and in vitro. However, such effects were not observed with null or allogeneic particles. The observed differences among these pseudo-AAV particles may be ascribed to the syngeneic pseudo-vector DNA facilitating the complementary DNA synthesis of the corresponding full AAV particles. Our study suggests that the DNA content in the pseudo-vectors plays a key role in dictating their effects on AAV transduction. The effects of residual "empty" particles should be adequately assessed when comparing AAV vector performance. The syngeneic AAV pseudo-vectors may be used to enhance the efficacy of gene therapy.
Project description:Efficient adeno-associated virus-mediated (AAV-mediated) gene delivery remains a significant obstacle to effective retinal gene therapies. Here, we apply directed evolution - guided by deep sequencing and followed by direct in vivo secondary selection of high-performing vectors with a GFP-barcoded library - to create AAV viral capsids with the capability to deliver genes to the outer retina in primates. A replication-incompetent library, produced via providing rep in trans, was created to mitigate risk of AAV propagation. Six rounds of in vivo selection with this library in primates - involving intravitreal library administration, recovery of genomes from outer retina, and extensive next-generation sequencing of each round - resulted in vectors with redirected tropism to the outer retina and increased gene delivery efficiency to retinal cells. These viral vectors expand the toolbox of vectors available for primate retina, and they may enable less invasive delivery of therapeutic genes to patients, potentially offering retina-wide infection at a similar dosage to vectors currently in clinical use.
Project description:Adeno-associated virus (AAV) vectors have become one of the most widely used gene transfer tools in human gene therapy. Considerable effort is currently being focused on AAV capsid engineering strategies with the aim of developing novel variants with enhanced tropism for specific human cell types, decreased human seroreactivity, and increased manufacturability. Selection strategies based on directed evolution rely on the generation of highly variable AAV capsid libraries using methods such as DNA-family shuffling, a technique reliant on stretches of high DNA sequence identity between input parental capsid sequences. This identity dependence for reassembly of shuffled capsids is inherently limiting and results in decreased shuffling efficiency as the phylogenetic distance between parental AAV capsids increases. To overcome this limitation, we have developed a novel codon-optimization algorithm that exploits evolutionarily defined codon usage at each amino acid residue in the parental sequences. This method increases average sequence identity between capsids, while enhancing the probability of retaining capsid functionality, and facilitates incorporation of phylogenetically distant serotypes into the DNA-shuffled libraries. This technology will help accelerate the discovery of an increasingly powerful repertoire of AAV capsid variants for cell-type and disease-specific applications.
Project description:Clinical data support the feasibility and safety of adeno-associated viral (AAV) vectors in gene therapy applications. Despite several clinical trials of AAV-based gene transfer for hemophilia B, a unique set of obstacles impede the development of a similar approach for hemophilia A. These include (i) the size of the factor VIII (fVIII) transgene, (ii) humoral immune responses to fVIII, (iii) inefficient biosynthesis of human fVIII, and (iv) AAV vector immunity. Through bioengineering approaches, a novel fVIII molecule, designated ET3, was developed and shown to improve biosynthetic efficiency 10- to 100-fold. In this study, the utility of ET3 was assessed in the context of liver-directed, AAV-mediated gene transfer into hemophilia A mice. Due to the large size of the expression cassette, AAV-ET3 genomes packaged into viral particles as partial genome fragments. Despite this potential limitation, a single peripheral vein administration of AAV-ET3 into immune-competent hemophilia A mice resulted in correction of the fVIII deficiency at lower vector doses than previously reported for similarly oversized AAV-fVIII vectors. Therefore, ET3 appears to improve vector potency and mitigate at least one of the critical barriers to AAV-based clinical gene therapy for hemophilia A.
Project description:The recombinant adeno-associated virus (rAAV) gene delivery system is entering a crucial and exciting phase with the promise of more than 20?years of intense research now realized in a number of successful human clinical trials. However, as a natural host to AAV infection, anti-AAV antibodies are prevalent in the human population. For example, ~70% of human sera samples are positive for AAV serotype 2 (AAV2). Furthermore, low levels of pre-existing neutralizing antibodies in the circulation are detrimental to the efficacy of corrective therapeutic AAV gene delivery. A key component to overcoming this obstacle is the identification of regions of the AAV capsid that participate in interactions with host immunity, especially neutralizing antibodies, to be modified for neutralization escape. Three main approaches have been utilized to map antigenic epitopes on AAV capsids. The first is directed evolution in which AAV variants are selected in the presence of monoclonal antibodies (MAbs) or pooled human sera. This results in AAV variants with mutations on important neutralizing epitopes. The second is epitope searching, achieved by peptide scanning, peptide insertion, or site-directed mutagenesis. The third, a structure biology-based approach, utilizes cryo-electron microscopy and image reconstruction of AAV capsids complexed to fragment antibodies, which are generated from MAbs, to directly visualize the epitopes. In this review, the contribution of these three approaches to the current knowledge of AAV epitopes and success in their use to create second generation vectors will be discussed.
Project description:Recombinant adeno-associated viruses (rAAVs) are commonly used vehicles for in vivo gene transfer. However, the tropism repertoire of naturally occurring AAVs is limited, prompting a search for novel AAV capsids with desired characteristics. Here we describe a capsid selection method, called Cre recombination-based AAV targeted evolution (CREATE), that enables the development of AAV capsids that more efficiently transduce defined Cre-expressing cell populations in vivo. We use CREATE to generate AAV variants that efficiently and widely transduce the adult mouse central nervous system (CNS) after intravenous injection. One variant, AAV-PHP.B, transfers genes throughout the CNS with an efficiency that is at least 40-fold greater than that of the current standard, AAV9 (refs. 14,15,16,17), and transduces the majority of astrocytes and neurons across multiple CNS regions. In vitro, it transduces human neurons and astrocytes more efficiently than does AAV9, demonstrating the potential of CREATE to produce customized AAV vectors for biomedical applications.