Synthetic engineering of viral vectors such as adeno-associated virus (AAV) is crucial to overcome host transduction barriers observed during clinical gene therapy. We reasoned that exploring the role of cellular ubiquitin-like modifiers (UBLs) such as Neddylation or SUMOylation during AAV transduction could be beneficial. Using a combination of in silico biochemical and molecular engineering strategies, we have studied the impact of these UBLs during AAV2 infection and further developed Neddylation or SUMOylation site-modified AAV vectors and validated them in multiple disease models in vitro and in vivo. Hepatic gene transfer of two novel vectors developed, K105Q (SUMOylation-site mutant) and K665Q (Neddylation-site mutant), demonstrated a significantly improved human coagulation factor (F) IX expression (up to two-fold) in a murine model of hemophilia B. Furthermore, subretinal gene transfer of AAV2-K105Q vector expressing RPE65 gene demonstrated visual correction in a murine model of a retinal degenerative disease (rd12 mice). These vectors did not have any adverse immunogenic events in vivo. Taken together, we demonstrate that gene delivery vectors specifically engineered at UBLs can improve the therapeutic outcome during AAV-mediated ocular or hepatic gene therapy.
Keywords: AAV; Neddylation; SUMOylation; capsid; hemophilia; rational engineering; retinal degeneration.