Viral Strategies for Targeting the Central and Peripheral Nervous Systems

Annu Rev Neurosci. 2018 Jul 8;41:323-348. doi: 10.1146/annurev-neuro-080317-062048. Epub 2018 Apr 25.


Recombinant viruses allow for targeted transgene expression in specific cell populations throughout the nervous system. The adeno-associated virus (AAV) is among the most commonly used viruses for neuroscience research. Recombinant AAVs (rAAVs) are highly versatile and can package most cargo composed of desired genes within the capsid's ∼5-kb carrying capacity. Numerous regulatory elements and intersectional strategies have been validated in rAAVs to enable cell type-specific expression. rAAVs can be delivered to specific neuronal populations or globally throughout the animal. The AAV capsids have natural cell type or tissue tropism and trafficking that can be modified for increased specificity. Here, we describe recently engineered AAV capsids and associated cargo that have extended the utility of AAVs in targeting molecularly defined neurons throughout the nervous system, which will further facilitate neuronal circuit interrogation and discovery.

Keywords: AAV; CREATE; adeno-associated virus; cell type specificity; gene transfer; systemic delivery; viral capsid engineering.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Central Nervous System / physiology*
  • Dependovirus / genetics
  • Genetic Engineering*
  • Humans
  • Peripheral Nervous System / physiology*