Quantitative Whole-Body Imaging of I-124-Labeled Adeno-Associated Viral Vector Biodistribution in Nonhuman Primates

Hum Gene Ther. 2020 Dec;31(23-24):1237-1259. doi: 10.1089/hum.2020.116.


A method is presented for quantitative analysis of the biodistribution of adeno-associated virus (AAV) gene transfer vectors following in vivo administration. We used iodine-124 (I-124) radiolabeling of the AAV capsid and positron emission tomography combined with compartmental modeling to quantify whole-body and organ-specific biodistribution of AAV capsids from 1 to 72 h following administration. Using intravenous (IV) and intracisternal (IC) routes of administration of AAVrh.10 and AAV9 vectors to nonhuman primates in the absence or presence of anticapsid immunity, we have identified novel insights into initial capsid biodistribution and organ-specific capsid half-life. Neither I-124-labeled AAVrh.10 nor AAV9 administered intravenously was detected at significant levels in the brain relative to the administered vector dose. Approximately 50% of the intravenously administered labeled capsids were dispersed throughout the body, independent of the liver, heart, and spleen. When administered by the IC route, the labeled capsid had a half-life of ∼10 h in the cerebral spinal fluid (CSF), suggesting that by this route, the CSF serves as a source with slow diffusion into the brain. For both IV and IC administration, there was significant influence of pre-existing anticapsid immunity on I-124-capsid biodistribution. The methodology facilitates quantitative in vivo viral vector dosimetry, which can serve as a technique for evaluation of both on- and off-target organ biodistribution, and potentially accelerate gene therapy development through rapid prototyping of novel vector designs.

Keywords: AAV imaging; adeno-associated viral vectors; vector biodistribution; vector dosimetry; vector immune response.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging*
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Brain / pathology
  • Brain / virology
  • Dependovirus / chemistry
  • Dependovirus / genetics*
  • Genetic Vectors / genetics
  • Humans
  • Iodine Radioisotopes / chemistry
  • Iodine Radioisotopes / pharmacology*
  • Primates
  • Tissue Distribution / drug effects
  • Whole Body Imaging / methods*


  • Iodine Radioisotopes
  • Iodine-124