Progress and prospects: immune responses to viral vectors

Gene Ther. 2010 Mar;17(3):295-304. doi: 10.1038/gt.2009.148. Epub 2009 Nov 12.


Viral vectors are potent gene delivery platforms used for the treatment of genetic and acquired diseases. However, just as viruses have evolved to infect cells efficiently, the immune system has evolved to fight off what it perceives as invading pathogens. Therefore, innate immunity and antigen-specific adaptive immune responses against vector-derived antigens reduce the efficacy and stability of in vivo gene transfer. In addition, a number of vectors are derived from parent viruses that humans encounter through natural infection, resulting in preexisting antibodies and possibly in memory responses against vector antigens. Similarly, antibody and T-cell responses may be directed against therapeutic gene products that often differ from the endogenous nonfunctional or absent protein that is being replaced. As details and mechanisms of such immune reactions are uncovered, novel strategies are being developed, and vectors are being specifically engineered to avoid, suppress or manipulate the response, ideally resulting in sustained expression and immune tolerance to the transgene product. This review provides a summary of our current knowledge of the interactions between the immune system adeno-associated virus, adenoviral and lentiviral vectors, and their transgene products.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adenoviridae / immunology*
  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Viral / immunology
  • Antigens, Viral / immunology
  • Complement System Proteins / immunology
  • Dependovirus / immunology*
  • Genetic Therapy*
  • Genetic Vectors / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Immune Tolerance
  • Immunity, Innate
  • Lentivirus / immunology*
  • Mice
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • Toll-Like Receptor 9 / immunology


  • Antibodies, Viral
  • Antigens, Viral
  • TLR9 protein, human
  • Toll-Like Receptor 9
  • Complement System Proteins