Although the clinical use of recombinant adeno-associated virus (rAAV) vectors is constantly increasing, the development of suitable quality control methods is still needed for accurate vector characterization. Among the quality criteria, the titration of infectious particles is critical to determine vector efficacy. Different methods have been developed for the measurement of rAAV infectivity in vitro, based on detection of vector genome replication in trans-complementing cells infected with adenovirus, detection of transgene expression in permissive cells, or simply detection of intracellular vector genomes following the infection of indicator cells. In the present study, we have compared these methods for the titration of infectious rAAV8 vector particles, and, to assess their ability to discriminate infectious and non-infectious rAAV serotype 8 particles, we have generated a VP1-defective AAV8-GFP vector. Since VP1 is required to enter the cell nucleus, the lack of VP1 should drastically reduce the infectivity of rAAV particles. The AAV8 reference standard material was used as a positive control. Our results demonstrated that methods based on measurement of rAAV biological activity (i.e., vector genome replication or transgene expression) were able to accurately discriminate infectious versus non-infectious particles, whereas methods simply measuring intracellular vector genomes were not. Several cell fractionation protocols were tested in an attempt to specifically measure vector genomes that had reached the nucleus, but genomes from wild-type and VP1-defective AAV8 particles were equally detected in the nuclear fraction by qPCR. These data highlight the importance of using suitable controls, including a negative control, for the development of biological assays such as infectious unit titration.
Keywords: AAV vectors; gene therapy; infectivity; quality control; titration.