Evaluation of engineered AAV capsids for hepatic factor IX gene transfer in murine and canine models.
ABSTRACT: 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.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.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.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:Multiple independent adeno-associated virus (AAV) gene therapy clinical trials for hemophilia B, utilizing different AAV serotypes, have reported a vector dose-dependent loss of circulating factor IX (FIX) protein associated with capsid-specific CD8+ T cell (Cap-CD8) elimination of transduced hepatocytes. Hemophilia B patients who develop transient transaminitis and loss of FIX protein may be stabilized with the immune-suppressive (IS) drug prednisolone, but do not all recover lost FIX expression, whereas some patients fail to respond to IS. We developed the first animal model demonstrating Cap-CD8 infiltration and elimination of AAV-transduced hepatocytes of immune-deficient mice. Here, we extend this model to an immune-competent host where Cap-CD8 transfer to AAV2-F9-treated mice significantly reduced circulating and hepatocyte FIX expression. Further, we studied two high-expressing liver tropic AAV2 variants, AAV2-LiA and AAV2-LiC, obtained from a rationally designed capsid library. Unlike AAV2, Cap-CD8 did not initially reduce circulating FIX levels for either variant. However, FIX levels were significantly reduced in AAV2-LiC-F9-treated, but not AAV2-LiA-F9-treated, mice at the study endpoint. Going forward, the immune-competent model may provide an opportunity to induce immunological memory directed against a surrogate AAV capsid antigen and study recall responses following AAV gene transfer.
Project description:Elimination of specific surface-exposed single tyrosine (Y) residues substantially improves hepatic gene transfer with adeno-associated virus type 2 (AAV2) vectors. Here, combinations of mutations in the seven potentially relevant Y residues were evaluated for further augmentation of transduction efficiency. These mutant capsids packaged viral genomes to similar titers and retained infectivity. A triple-mutant (Y444+500+730F) vector consistently had the highest level of in vivo gene transfer to murine hepatocytes, approximately threefold more efficient than the best single-mutants, and ~30-80-fold higher compared with the wild-type (WT) AAV2 capsids. Improvement of gene transfer was similar for both single-stranded AAV (ssAAV) and self-complementary AAV (scAAV) vectors, indicating that these effects are independent of viral second-strand DNA synthesis. Furthermore, Y730F and triple-mutant vectors provided a long-term therapeutic and tolerogenic expression of human factor IX (hF.IX) in hemophilia B (HB) mice after administration of a vector dose that only results in subtherapeutic and transient expression with WT AAV2 encapsidated vectors. In summary, introduction of multiple tyrosine-mutations into the AAV2 capsid results in vectors that yield at least 30-fold improvement of transgene expression, thereby lowering the required therapeutic dose and potentially vector-related immunogenicity. Such vectors should be attractive for treatment of hemophilia and other genetic diseases.
Project description:Adeno-associated virus (AAV) vectors have been used successfully in clinical trials for patients with hemophilia or blindness, but pre-existing neutralizing antibodies (Nab) are common in the general population and exclude many patients from clinical trials. Exploration of effective strategies to enhance AAV transduction and escape from Nab activity is still imperative. Previous studies have shown the compatibility of capsids from AAV serotypes and homology of recognition sites of AAV Nab located on different capsid subunits from one virion. In this study, we co-transfected AAV2 and AAV8 helper plasmids at different ratios (3:1, 1:1 and 1:3) to assemble haploid capsids and study both their transduction efficiency and Nab escape activity. After muscular injection, all of the haploid viruses induced higher transduction than their parental AAV vectors (2- to 9-fold over AAV2), with the highest of these being the haploid vector AAV2/8 3:1. After systemic administration, a 4-fold higher transduction in the liver was observed with haploid AAV2/8 1:3 than that with AAV8 alone. We then packaged the therapeutic factor IX cassette into haploid AAV2/8 1:3 capsids and injected them into FIX knockout mice via the tail vein. Higher FIX expression and improved phenotypic correction were achieved with the haploid AAV2/8 1:3 virus vector when compared to that of AAV8. Additionally, the haploid virus AAV2/8 1:3 was able to escape AAV2 neutralization and did not increase capsid antigen presentation capacity when compared to AAV8. To improve the Nab evasion ability of the haploid virus, we produced the triploid vector AAV2/8/9 by co-transfecting AAV2, AAV8 and AAV9 helper plasmids at a ratio of 1:1:1. After systemic administration, a 2-fold higher transduction in the liver was observed with the triploid vector AAV2/8/9 than that with AAV8. Nab analysis demonstrated that the triploid AAV2/8/9 vector was able to escape Nab activity from mouse sera immunized with parental serotypes. These results indicate that polyploid viruses might potentially acquire advantages from parental serotypes for enhancement of AAV transduction and evasion of Nab recognition without increasing capsid antigen presentation in target cells. Polyploid AAV vectors can be generated from any AAV serotype, whether natural, rational, library derived or a combination thereof, providing a novel strategy that should be explored in future clinical trials in patients with neutralizing antibodies.
Project description:Vector capsid dose-dependent inflammation of transduced liver has limited the ability of adeno-associated virus (AAV) factor IX (FIX) gene therapy vectors to reliably convert severe to mild hemophilia B in human clinical trials. These trials also identified the need to understand AAV neutralizing antibodies and empty AAV capsids regarding their impact on clinical success. To address these safety concerns, we have used a scalable manufacturing process to produce GMP-grade AAV8 expressing the FIXR338L gain-of-function variant with minimal (<10%) empty capsid and have performed comprehensive dose-response, biodistribution, and safety evaluations in clinically relevant hemophilia models. The scAAV8.FIXR338L vector produced greater than 6-fold increased FIX specific activity compared with wild-type FIX and demonstrated linear dose responses from doses that produced 2-500% FIX activity, associated with dose-dependent hemostasis in a tail transection bleeding challenge. More importantly, using a bleeding model that closely mimics the clinical morbidity of hemophilic arthropathy, mice that received the scAAV8.FIXR338L vector developed minimal histopathological findings of synovitis after hemarthrosis, when compared with mice that received identical doses of wild-type FIX vector. Hemostatically normal mice (n=20) and hemophilic mice (n=88) developed no FIX antibodies after peripheral intravenous vector delivery. No CD8(+) T cell liver infiltrates were observed, despite the marked tropism of scAAV8.FIXR338L for the liver in a comprehensive biodistribution evaluation (n=60 animals). With respect to the role of empty capsids, we demonstrated that in vivo FIXR338L expression was not influenced by the presence of empty AAV particles, either in the presence or absence of various titers of AAV8-neutralizing antibodies. Necropsy of FIX(-/-) mice 8-10 months after vector delivery revealed no microvascular or macrovascular thrombosis in mice expressing FIXR338L (plasma FIX activity, 100-500%). These preclinical studies demonstrate a safety:efficacy profile supporting an ongoing phase 1/2 human clinical trial of the scAAV8.FIXR338L vector (designated BAX335).
Project description:Adeno-associated virus (AAV) vectors are effective gene delivery vehicles mediating long-lasting transgene expression. Data from a clinical trial of AAV2-mediated hepatic transfer of the Factor IX gene (F9) into hemophilia B subjects suggests that CTL responses against AAV capsid can eliminate transduced hepatocytes and prevent long-term F9 expression. However, the capacity of hepatocytes to present AAV capsid-derived antigens has not been formally demonstrated, nor whether transduction by AAV sensitizes hepatocytes for CTL-mediated destruction. To investigate the fate of capsids after transduction, we engineered a soluble TCR for the detection of capsid-derived peptide:MHC I (pMHC) complexes. TCR multimers exhibited antigen and HLA specificity and possessed high binding affinity for cognate pMHC complexes. With this reagent, capsid pMHC complexes were detectable by confocal microscopy following AAV-mediated transduction of human hepatocytes. Although antigen presentation was modest, it was sufficient to flag transduced cells for CTL-mediated lysis in an in vitro killing assay. Destruction of hepatocytes was inhibited by soluble TCR, demonstrating a possible application for this reagent in blocking undesirable CTL responses. Together, these studies provide a mechanism for the loss of transgene expression and transient elevations in aminotransferases following AAV-mediated hepatic gene transfer in humans and a potential therapeutic intervention to abrogate these limitations imposed by the host T cell response.
Project description:Adeno-associated virus (AAV) is the most common vector for clinical gene therapy of the CNS. This popularity originates from a high safety record and the longevity of transgene expression in neurons. Nevertheless, clinical efficacy for CNS indications is lacking, and one reason for this is the relatively limited spread and transduction efficacy in large regions of the human brain. Using rationally designed modifications of the capsid, novel AAV capsids have been generated that improve intracellular processing and result in increased transgene expression. Here, we sought to improve AAV-mediated neuronal transduction to minimize the existing limitations of CNS gene therapy. We investigated the efficacy of CNS transduction using a variety of tyrosine and threonine capsid mutants based on AAV2, AAV5, and AAV8 capsids, as well as AAV2 mutants incapable of binding heparan sulfate (HS). We found that mutating several tyrosine residues on the AAV2 capsid significantly enhanced neuronal transduction in the striatum and hippocampus, and the ablation of HS binding also increased the volumetric spread of the vector. Interestingly, the analogous tyrosine substitutions on AAV5 and AAV8 capsids did not improve the efficacy of these serotypes. Our results demonstrate that the efficacy of CNS gene transfer can be significantly improved with minor changes to the AAV capsid and that the effect is serotype specific.
Project description:Recent clinical trials have shown that evasion of CD8(+) T-cell responses against viral capsid is critical for successful liver-directed gene therapy with adeno-associated viral (AAV) vectors for hemophilia. Preclinical models to test whether use of alternate serotypes or capsid variants could avoid this deleterious response have been lacking. Here, the ability of CD8(+) T cells ("cap-CD8," specific for a capsid epitope presented by human B*0702 or murine H2-L(d) molecules) to target AAV-infected hepatocytes was investigated. In a murine model based on adoptive transfer of ex vivo expanded cap-CD8, AAV2-transduced livers showed CD8(+) T-cell infiltrates, transaminitis, significant reduction in factor IX transgene expression, and loss of transduced hepatocytes. AAV8 gene transfer resulted in prolonged susceptibility to cap-CD8, consistent with recent clinical findings. In contrast, using an AAV2(Y-F) mutant capsid, which is known to be less degraded by proteasomes, preserved transgene expression and largely avoided hepatotoxicity. In vitro assays confirmed reduced major histocompatibility complex class I presentation of this capsid and killing of human or murine hepatocytes compared with AAV2. In conclusion, AAV capsids can be engineered to substantially reduce the risk of destruction by cytotoxic T lymphocytes, whereas use of alternative serotypes per se does not circumvent this obstacle.
Project description:Post-translational modifications in viral capsids are known to fine-tune and regulate several aspects of the infective life cycle of several viruses in the host. Recombinant viruses that are generated in a specific producer cell line are likely to inherit unique post-translational modifications during intra-cellular maturation of its capsid proteins. Data on such post-translational modifications in the capsid of recombinant adeno-associated virus serotypes (AAV1-rh10) is limited. We have employed liquid chromatography and mass spectrometry analysis to characterize post-translational modifications in AAV1-rh10 capsid protein. Our analysis revealed a total of 52 post-translational modifications in AAV2-AAVrh10 capsids, including ubiquitination (17%), glycosylation (36%), phosphorylation (21%), SUMOylation (13%) and acetylation (11%). While AAV1 had no detectable post-translational modification, at least four AAV serotypes had >7 post-translational modifications in their capsid protein. About 82% of these post-translational modifications are novel. A limited validation of AAV2 capsids by MALDI-TOF and western blot analysis demonstrated minimal glycosylation and ubiquitination of AAV2 capsids. To further validate this, we disrupted a glycosylation site identified in AAV2 capsid (AAV2-N253Q), which severely compromised its packaging efficiency (~ 100-fold vs. AAV2 wild-type vectors). In order to confirm other post-translational modifications detected such as SUMOylation, mutagenesis of a SUMOylation site(K258Q) in AAV2 was performed. This mutant vector demonstrated reduced levels of SUMO-1/2/3 proteins and negligible transduction, 2 weeks after ocular gene transfer. Our study underscores the heterogeneity of post-translational modifications in AAV vectors. The data presented here, should facilitate further studies to understand the biological relevance of post-translational modifications in AAV life cycle and the development of novel bioengineered AAV vectors for gene therapy applications. ENZYMES: Trypsin, EC 22.214.171.124.
Project description:The discovery that adeno-associated virus 2 (AAV2) encodes an eighth protein, called assembly-activating protein (AAP), transformed our understanding of wild-type AAV biology. Concurrently, it raised questions about the role of AAP during production of recombinant vectors based on natural or molecularly engineered AAV capsids. Here, we show that AAP is indeed essential for generation of functional recombinant AAV2 vectors in both mammalian and insect cell-based vector production systems. Surprisingly, we observed that AAV2 capsid proteins VP1 to -3 are unstable in the absence of AAP2, likely due to rapid proteasomal degradation. Inhibition of the proteasome led to an increase of intracellular VP1 to -3 but neither triggered assembly of functional capsids nor promoted nuclear localization of the capsid proteins. Together, this underscores the crucial and unique role of AAP in the AAV life cycle, where it rapidly chaperones capsid assembly, thus preventing degradation of free capsid proteins. An expanded analysis comprising nine alternative AAV serotypes (1, 3 to 9, and rh10) showed that vector production always depends on the presence of AAP, with the exceptions of AAV4 and AAV5, which exhibited AAP-independent, albeit low-level, particle assembly. Interestingly, AAPs from all 10 serotypes could cross-complement AAP-depleted helper plasmids during vector production, despite there being distinct intracellular AAP localization patterns. These were most pronounced for AAP4 and AAP5, congruent with their inability to rescue an AAV2/AAP2 knockout. We conclude that AAP is key for assembly of genuine capsids from at least 10 different AAV serotypes, which has implications for vectors derived from wild-type or synthetic AAV capsids.IMPORTANCE Assembly of adeno-associated virus 2 (AAV2) is regulated by the assembly-activating protein (AAP), whose open reading frame overlaps with that of the viral capsid proteins. As the majority of evidence was obtained using virus-like particles composed solely of the major capsid protein VP3, AAP's role in and relevance for assembly of genuine AAV capsids have remained largely unclear. Thus, we established a trans-complementation assay permitting assessment of AAP functionality during production of recombinant vectors based on complete AAV capsids and derived from any serotype. We find that AAP is indeed a critical factor not only for AAV2, but also for generation of vectors derived from nine other AAV serotypes. Moreover, we identify a new role of AAP in maintaining capsid protein stability in mammalian and insect cells. Thereby, our study expands our current understanding of AAV/AAP biology, and it concomitantly provides insights into the importance of AAP for AAV vector production.
Project description:AAV vectors have shown great promise for clinical gene therapy (GT), but pre-existing human immunity against the AAV capsid often limits transduction. Thus, testing promising AAV-based GT approaches in an animal model with similar pre-existing immunity could better predict clinical outcome. Sheep have long been used for basic biological and preclinical studies. Moreover, we have re-established a line of sheep with severe hemophilia A (HA). Given the impetus to use AAV-based GT to treat hemophilia, we characterized the pre-existing ovine humoral immunity to AAV. ELISA revealed naturally-occurring antibodies to AAV1, AAV2, AAV5, AAV6, AAV8, and AAV9. For AAV2, AAV8, and AAV9 these inhibit transduction in a luciferase-based neutralization assay. Epitope mapping identified peptides that were common to the capsids of all AAV serotypes tested (AAV2, AAV5, AAV8 and AAV9), with each animal harboring antibodies to unique and common capsid epitopes. Mapping using X-ray crystallographic AAV capsid structures demonstrated that these antibodies recognized both surface epitopes and epitopes located within regions of the capsid that are internal or buried in the capsid structure. These results suggest that sheep harbor endogenous AAV, which induces immunity to both intact capsid and to capsid epitopes presented following proteolysis during the course of infection. In conclusion, their clinically relevant physiology and the presence of naturally-occurring antibodies to multiple AAV serotypes collectively make sheep a unique model in which to study GT for HA, and other diseases, and develop strategies to circumvent the clinically important barrier of pre-existing AAV immunity.