Long-distance axonal transport of AAV9 is driven by dynein and kinesin-2 and is trafficked in a highly motile Rab7-positive compartment

Mol Ther. 2014 Mar;22(3):554-566. doi: 10.1038/mt.2013.237. Epub 2013 Oct 8.


Adeno-associated virus (AAV) vectors can move along axonal pathways after brain injection, resulting in transduction of distal brain regions. This can enhance the spread of therapeutic gene transfer and improve treatment of neurogenetic disorders that require global correction. To better understand the underlying cellular mechanisms that drive AAV trafficking in neurons, we investigated the axonal transport of dye-conjugated AAV9, utilizing microfluidic primary neuron cultures that isolate cell bodies from axon termini and permit independent analysis of retrograde and anterograde axonal transport. After entry, AAV was trafficked into nonmotile early and recycling endosomes, exocytic vesicles, and a retrograde-directed late endosome/lysosome compartment. Rab7-positive late endosomes/lysosomes that contained AAV were highly motile, exhibiting faster retrograde velocities and less pausing than Rab7-positive endosomes without virus. Inhibitor experiments indicated that the retrograde transport of AAV within these endosomes is driven by cytoplasmic dynein and requires Rab7 function, whereas anterograde transport of AAV is driven by kinesin-2 and exhibits unusually rapid velocities. Furthermore, increasing AAV9 uptake by neuraminidase treatment significantly enhanced virus transport in both directions. These findings provide novel insights into AAV trafficking within neurons, which should enhance progress toward the utilization of AAV for improved distribution of transgene delivery within the brain.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Axonal Transport*
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Dependovirus / physiology*
  • Dyneins / metabolism*
  • Endosomes / metabolism
  • Kinesin / metabolism*
  • Neuraminidase / pharmacology
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Neurons / virology*
  • Rats
  • rab GTP-Binding Proteins / metabolism*


  • rab7 protein
  • Neuraminidase
  • Dyneins
  • Kinesin
  • rab GTP-Binding Proteins