Adeno-associated viral (AAV) vectors are a leading candidate for the delivery of CRISPR-Cas9 for therapeutic genome editing in vivo. However, AAV-based delivery involves persistent expression of the Cas9 nuclease, a bacterial protein. Recent studies indicate a high prevalence of neutralizing antibodies and T cells specific to the commonly used Cas9 orthologs from Streptococcus pyogenes (SpCas9) and Staphylococcus aureus (SaCas9) in humans. We tested in a mouse model whether pre-existing immunity to SaCas9 would pose a barrier to liver genome editing with AAV packaging CRISPR-Cas9. Although efficient genome editing occurred in mouse liver with pre-existing SaCas9 immunity, this was accompanied by an increased proportion of CD8+ T cells in the liver. This cytotoxic T cell response was characterized by hepatocyte apoptosis, loss of recombinant AAV genomes, and complete elimination of genome-edited cells, and was followed by compensatory liver regeneration. Our results raise important efficacy and safety concerns for CRISPR-Cas9-based in vivo genome editing in the liver.
Keywords: AAV-CRISPR; CD8+ T cell; SaCas9; adeno-associated virus; gene therapy; hepatocytes; immune response; liver; pre-existing immunity; somatic genome editing.
Copyright © 2020 The Author(s). Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.