Recombinant adeno-associated viruses (rAAVs) are currently the most prominently investigated vector platform for human gene therapy. The rAAV capsid serves as a potent and efficient vehicle for delivering genetic payloads into the host cell, while the vector genome determines the function and effectiveness of these biotherapies. However, current production schemes yield vectors that may consist of heterogeneous populations, compromising their potencies. The development of next-generation sequencing methods within the past few years have helped investigators profile the diversity and relative abundances of heterogenous species in vector preparations. Specifically, long-read sequencing methods, like single molecule real-time (SMRT) sequencing, have been used to uncover truncations, chimeric genomes, and inverted terminal repeat (ITR) mutations in vectors. Unfortunately, these sequencing platforms may be inaccessible to investigators with limited resources, require large amounts of input material, or may require long wait times for sequencing and analyses. Recent advances with nanopore sequencing have helped to bridge the gap for quick and relatively inexpensive long-read sequencing needs. However, their limitations and sample biases are not well-defined for sequencing rAAV. In this study, we explored the capacity for nanopore sequencing to directly interrogate rAAV content to obtain full-length resolution of encapsidated genomes. We found that the nanopore platform can cover the entirety of rAAV genomes from ITR to ITR without the need for pre-fragmentation. However, the accuracy for base calling was low, resulting in a high degree of miscalled bases and false indels. These false indels led to read-length compression; thus, assessing heterogeneity based on read length is not advisable with current nanopore technologies. Nonetheless, nanopore sequencing was able to correctly identify truncation hotspots in single-strand and self-complementary vectors similar to SMRT sequencing. In summary, nanopore sequencing can serve as a rapid and low-cost alternative for proofing AAV vectors.
Keywords: adeno-associated virus/nanopore/vector heterogeneity/inverted terminal repeat.