Cerebral infusion of AAV9 vector-encoding non-self proteins can elicit cell-mediated immune responses

Mol Ther. 2013 Jan;21(1):158-66. doi: 10.1038/mt.2012.167. Epub 2012 Aug 28.


There is considerable interest in the use of adeno-associated virus serotype 9 (AAV9) for neurological gene therapy partly because of its ability to cross the blood-brain barrier to transduce astrocytes and neurons. This raises the possibility that AAV9 might also transduce antigen-presenting cells (APC) in the brain and provoke an adaptive immune response. We tested this hypothesis by infusing AAV9 vectors encoding foreign antigens, namely human aromatic L-amino acid decarboxylase (hAADC) and green fluorescent protein (GFP), into rat brain parenchyma. Over ensuing weeks, both vectors elicited a prominent inflammation in transduced brain regions associated with upregulation of MHC II in glia and associated lymphocytic infiltration. Transduction of either thalamus or striatum with AAV9-hAADC evinced a significant loss of neurons and induction of anti-hAADC antibodies. We conclude that AAV9 transduces APC in the brain and, depending on the immunogenicity of the transgene, can provoke a full immune response that mediates significant brain pathology. We emphasize, however, that these observations do not preclude the use of AAV serotypes that can transduce APC. However, it does potentially complicate preclinical toxicology studies in which non-self proteins are expressed at a level sufficient to trigger cell-mediated and humoral immune responses.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Dependovirus / genetics*
  • Genetic Vectors*
  • Immunity, Cellular*
  • Proteins / genetics*
  • Proteins / immunology
  • Rats
  • Transduction, Genetic


  • Proteins