Novel Combinatorial MicroRNA-Binding Sites in AAV Vectors Synergistically Diminish Antigen Presentation and Transgene Immunity for Efficient and Stable Transduction

Front Immunol. 2021 Apr 28:12:674242. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2021.674242. eCollection 2021.


Recombinant adeno-associated virus (rAAV) platforms hold promise for in vivo gene therapy but are undermined by the undesirable transduction of antigen presenting cells (APCs), which in turn can trigger host immunity towards rAAV-expressed transgene products. In light of recent adverse events in patients receiving high systemic AAV vector doses that were speculated to be related to host immune responses, development of strategies to mute innate and adaptive immunity is imperative. The use of miRNA binding sites (miR-BSs) to confer endogenous miRNA-mediated regulation to detarget transgene expression from APCs has shown promise for reducing transgene immunity. Studies have shown that designing miR-142BSs into rAAV1 vectors were able to repress costimulatory signals in dendritic cells (DCs), blunt the cytotoxic T cell response, and attenuate clearance of transduced muscle cells in mice to allow sustained transgene expression in myofibers with negligible anti-transgene IgG production. In this study, we screened individual and combinatorial miR-BS designs against 26 miRNAs that are abundantly expressed in APCs, but not in skeletal muscle. The highly immunogenic ovalbumin (OVA) transgene was used as a proxy for foreign antigens. In vitro screening in myoblasts, mouse DCs, and macrophages revealed that the combination of miR-142BS and miR-652-5pBS strongly mutes transgene expression in APCs but maintains high myoblast and myocyte expression. Importantly, rAAV1 vectors carrying this novel miR-142/652-5pBS cassette achieve higher transgene levels following intramuscular injections in mice than previous detargeting designs. The cassette strongly inhibits cytotoxic CTL activation and suppresses the Th17 response in vivo. Our approach, thus, advances the efficiency of miRNA-mediated detargeting to achieve synergistic reduction of transgene-specific immune responses and the development of safe and efficient delivery vehicles for gene therapy.

Keywords: adeno-associated virus vectors; antigen presenting cells; gene therapy; miR-142; miR-223-3p; miR-652-5p; miR-BS; microRNA.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigen Presentation / immunology*
  • Antigen-Presenting Cells / immunology
  • Binding Sites
  • Dependovirus*
  • Female
  • Genetic Therapy / methods
  • Genetic Vectors*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • MicroRNAs*
  • Transduction, Genetic / methods*
  • Transgenes


  • MicroRNAs