We used a recombinant adeno-associated virus vector (AAV) to deliver a foreign gene, green fluorescent protein (GFP), into mature neurons in adult rat CNS in vivo. Microinjections of AAV as small as 50 nl transduced hundreds of neurons at the injection site. There was virtually no retrograde transport as fewer than one neuron per brain was found distant from the injection site that exhibited GFP immunoreactivity. The gene product, GFP, filled the entire neuronal cytoplasmic compartment; GFP immunoreactivity was robust in cell bodies, axons, and nerve terminals. There was no tissue damage at the injection sites or pathogenicity indicated by changes in astrocytic or microglial markers. There was no inflammatory response as judged by leukocytic invasion. Gene expression in transduced cells was robust and apparently permanent: there was no evidence of phenotypic reversion up to 12 weeks following infection. AAV is an excellent vector for introducing foreign genes into mature CNS neurons. Not only might it be an ideal vehicle for gene therapy, but also the GFP-containing AAV presents a new strategy for tracing long axonal pathways in the CNS, which is difficult with current tracers (PHAL, biotinylated dextrans).
Copyright 1998 Elsevier Science B.V.