A two-hybrid screen identifies cathepsins B and L as uncoating factors for adeno-associated virus 2 and 8

Mol Ther. 2007 Feb;15(2):330-9. doi: 10.1038/sj.mt.6300053.


Vectors based on different serotypes of adeno-associated virus hold great promise for human gene therapy, based on their unique tissue tropisms and distinct immunological profiles. A particularly interesting candidate is AAV8, which can efficiently and rapidly transduce a wide range of tissues in vivo. To further unravel the mechanisms behind AAV8 transduction, we used yeast two-hybrid analyses to screen a mouse liver complementary DNA library for cellular proteins capable of interacting with the viral capsid proteins. In total, we recovered approximately 700 clones, comprising over 300 independent genes. Sequence analyses revealed multiple hits for over 100 genes, including two encoding the endosomal cysteine proteases cathepsins B and L. Notably, these two proteases also physically interacted with the corresponding portion of the AAV2 capsid in yeast, but not with AAV5. We demonstrate that cathepsins B and L are essential for efficient AAV2- and AAV8-mediated transduction of mammalian cells, and document the ability of purified cathepsin B and L proteins to bind and cleave intact AAV2 and AAV8 particles in vitro. These data suggest that cathepsin-mediated cleavage could prime AAV capsids for subsequent nuclear uncoating, and indicate that analysis of additional genes recovered in our screen may help to further elucidate the mechanisms behind transduction by AAV8 and related serotypes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Capsid Proteins / genetics
  • Capsid Proteins / metabolism*
  • Cathepsin B / genetics
  • Cathepsin B / metabolism*
  • Cathepsin L
  • Cathepsins / genetics
  • Cathepsins / metabolism*
  • Cysteine Endopeptidases / genetics
  • Cysteine Endopeptidases / metabolism*
  • Dependovirus / genetics
  • Dependovirus / metabolism*
  • Genetic Vectors / genetics
  • Genome, Viral / genetics
  • Mice
  • Models, Biological
  • NIH 3T3 Cells
  • Protein Binding
  • Transduction, Genetic
  • Two-Hybrid System Techniques*


  • Capsid Proteins
  • Cathepsins
  • Cysteine Endopeptidases
  • Cathepsin B
  • CTSL protein, human
  • Cathepsin L
  • Ctsl protein, mouse