Of the 12 common serotypes used for gene delivery applications, Adeno-associated virus (AAV)rh.10 serotype has shown sustained hepatic transduction and has the lowest seropositivity in humans. We have evaluated if further modifications to AAVrh.10 at its phosphodegron like regions or predicted immunogenic epitopes could improve its hepatic gene transfer and immune evasion potential. Mutant AAVrh.10 vectors were generated by site directed mutagenesis of the predicted targets. These mutant vectors were first tested for their transduction efficiency in HeLa and HEK293T cells. The optimal vector was further evaluated for their cellular uptake, entry, and intracellular trafficking by quantitative PCR and time-lapse confocal microscopy. To evaluate their potential during hepatic gene therapy, C57BL/6 mice were administered with wild-type or optimal mutant AAVrh.10 and the luciferase transgene expression was documented by serial bioluminescence imaging at 14, 30, 45, and 72 days post-gene transfer. Their hepatic transduction was further verified by a quantitative PCR analysis of AAV copy number in the liver tissue. The optimal AAVrh.10 vector was further evaluated for their immune escape potential, in animals pre-immunized with human intravenous immunoglobulin. Our results demonstrate that a modified AAVrh.10 S671A vector had enhanced cellular entry (3.6 fold), migrate rapidly to the perinuclear region (1 vs. >2 h for wild type vectors) in vitro, which further translates to modest increase in hepatic gene transfer efficiency in vivo. More importantly, the mutant AAVrh.10 vector was able to partially evade neutralizing antibodies (~27-64 fold) in pre-immunized animals. The development of an AAV vector system that can escape the circulating neutralizing antibodies in the host will substantially widen the scope of gene therapy applications in humans.
Keywords: AAV; B-cell; T-cell; confocal microscopy; gene therapy; immune-escape; neutralizing antibody.