Background: We have used wild-type and recombinant adeno-associated virus-2 (AAV) to study transduction, replication efficiencies, functional protein expression, and gene delivery to vascular cells in vitro and in vivo.
Methods: Recombinant adeno-associated virus-2 (rAAV) plasmids (ranging in size to 110% of wild-type AAV) driven by 6 distinct promoters upstream of a beta-galactosidase cassette were effectively used for generation of replication-deficient virus, with titers consistently ranging from 2.5 x 10(5) IU/mL. AAV infectivity and replication in human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVEC) were unrelated to cellular proliferative index establishing the potential utility of the virus for transduction of quiescent vascular cells. Long-term cultures of AAV-infected HUVEC established the presence of episomal forms at 18 days, although chromosome 19-specific integration was not evident. Functional beta-galactosidase activity approximately 400% above control was evident in HUVEC using either a murine collagen alpha 1(I) promoter (pTRCol alpha 1(I) beta) or CMV promoter (pTRCMV beta).
Results: Based on these initial data, in vivo studies were completed using a rat carotid artery model. Both wild-type AAV (titers -1X10(9) IU/mL) and rAAV (pTRCol alpha 1(I) beta or pTRCMV beta) efficiently infected vascular cells in vivo with endothelial and vascular smooth muscle cell transduction frequencies approaching 90% as judged by DNA in situ polymerase chain reaction, with no evidence for disrupted vessel architecture. Protein expression using total vessel extracts at 48 hours postinfection demonstrated 20-fold increase in functional beta-galactosidase activity using pTRCol alpha 1(I) beta compared to saline-injected controls vessels (799 +/- 236 microU/mg protein vs 40.7 +/- 17 microU/mg protein).
Conclusions: These data provide the first evidence that rAAV may be adapted for directed high-level transgene delivery and expression into normally quiescent vascular endothelial and smooth muscle cells both in vitro and in vivo.