Codon-Optimization of Wild-Type Adeno-Associated Virus Capsid Sequences Enhances DNA Family Shuffling while Conserving Functionality

Mol Ther Methods Clin Dev. 2018 Nov 1;12:71-84. doi: 10.1016/j.omtm.2018.10.016. eCollection 2019 Mar 15.


Adeno-associated virus (AAV) vectors have become one of the most widely used gene transfer tools in human gene therapy. Considerable effort is currently being focused on AAV capsid engineering strategies with the aim of developing novel variants with enhanced tropism for specific human cell types, decreased human seroreactivity, and increased manufacturability. Selection strategies based on directed evolution rely on the generation of highly variable AAV capsid libraries using methods such as DNA-family shuffling, a technique reliant on stretches of high DNA sequence identity between input parental capsid sequences. This identity dependence for reassembly of shuffled capsids is inherently limiting and results in decreased shuffling efficiency as the phylogenetic distance between parental AAV capsids increases. To overcome this limitation, we have developed a novel codon-optimization algorithm that exploits evolutionarily defined codon usage at each amino acid residue in the parental sequences. This method increases average sequence identity between capsids, while enhancing the probability of retaining capsid functionality, and facilitates incorporation of phylogenetically distant serotypes into the DNA-shuffled libraries. This technology will help accelerate the discovery of an increasingly powerful repertoire of AAV capsid variants for cell-type and disease-specific applications.

Keywords: AAV; DNA shuffling; capsid; codon optimization; directed evolution; library.