AAV analysis by sedimentation velocity analytical ultracentrifugation: beyond empty and full capsids

Eur Biophys J. 2023 Apr 10. doi: 10.1007/s00249-023-01646-z. Online ahead of print.


The recent surge of therapeutic interest in recombinant adeno-associated viral (AAV) vectors for targeted DNA delivery has brought analytical ultracentrifugation (AUC) into the spotlight. A major concern during formulation of AAV therapeutics is purity of the active species (DNA-containing capsid, or "filled capsids"). Insertion of DNA into AAV is not a highly efficient process; thus, a significant amount of empty and partial/intermediate AAV molecules may exist. Recent guidance from the FDA includes limiting the presence of empty AAV capsids and other impurities to reduce immunotoxicity. While chromatographic techniques (SEC, SEC-MALS, AEX) are often used for empty and full capsid quantitation due to the ease of accessibility and familiarity among most biochemists, the resolution and sensitivity attained by sedimentation velocity (SV-AUC) in the formulation buffer and purification buffers is unmatched. Approaches for using SV-AUC to determine the empty-to-full capsid ratio have already been discussed by others; however, in this report, we focus on the importance of characterizing other impurities, such as free DNA, partially filled capsids, and aggregates that are recognized as species of concern for immunotoxicity. We also demonstrate the usefulness of applying multiple analyses (e.g., c(s), g(s*), WDA) in confirming the presence of and determining the hydrodynamic parameters of these various species.

Keywords: Adeno-associated viral vectors; Partial capsids; SEDFIT; Time derivative; Wide distribution analysis; cGMP.