Directed evolution of adeno-associated virus for efficient gene delivery to microglia

Nat Methods. 2022 Aug;19(8):976-985. doi: 10.1038/s41592-022-01547-7. Epub 2022 Jul 25.


As the resident immune cells in the central nervous system (CNS), microglia orchestrate immune responses and dynamically sculpt neural circuits in the CNS. Microglial dysfunction and mutations of microglia-specific genes have been implicated in many diseases of the CNS. Developing effective and safe vehicles for transgene delivery into microglia will facilitate the studies of microglia biology and microglia-associated disease mechanisms. Here, we report the discovery of adeno-associated virus (AAV) variants that mediate efficient in vitro and in vivo microglial transduction via directed evolution of the AAV capsid protein. These AAV-cMG and AAV-MG variants are capable of delivering various genetic payloads into microglia with high efficiency, and enable sufficient transgene expression to support fluorescent labeling, Ca2+ and neurotransmitter imaging and genome editing in microglia in vivo. Furthermore, single-cell RNA sequencing shows that the AAV-MG variants mediate in vivo transgene delivery without inducing microglia immune activation. These AAV variants should facilitate the use of various genetically encoded sensors and effectors in the study of microglia-related biology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Dependovirus* / genetics
  • Gene Transfer Techniques
  • Genetic Therapy / methods
  • Genetic Vectors / genetics
  • Microglia*
  • Transduction, Genetic