Nanobody-Enhanced Targeting of AAV Gene Therapy Vectors

Mol Ther Methods Clin Dev. 2019 Sep 16;15:211-220. doi: 10.1016/j.omtm.2019.09.003. eCollection 2019 Dec 13.


A limiting factor for the use of adeno-associated viruses (AAVs) as vectors in gene therapy is the broad tropism of AAV serotypes, i.e., the parallel infection of several cell types. Nanobodies are single immunoglobulin variable domains from heavy chain antibodies that naturally occur in camelids. Their small size and high solubility allow easy reformatting into fusion proteins. Herein we show that a membrane protein-specific nanobody can be inserted into a surface loop of the VP1 capsid protein of AAV2. Using three structurally distinct membrane proteins-a multispan ion channel, a single-span transmembrane protein, and a glycosylphosphatidylinositol (GPI)-anchored ectoenzyme-we show that this strategy can dramatically enhance the transduction of specific target cells by recombinant AAV2. Moreover, we show that the nanobody-VP1 fusion of AAV2 can be incorporated into the capsids of AAV1, AAV8, and AAV9 and thereby effectively redirect the target specificity of other AAV serotypes. Nanobody-mediated targeting provides a highly efficient AAV targeting strategy that is likely to open up new avenues for genetic engineering of cells.

Keywords: CD38; P2X7; VHH; adeno-associated virus; capsid modification; cell-specific vectors; ligand-insertion; nanobody; single-domain antibody; vector-targeting.