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  • asokanlab

Humanizing AAV capsids through directed evolution

Coevolution of Adeno-associated Virus Capsid Antigenicity and Tropism through a Structure-Guided Approach

Approaches to engineer recombinant capsids for gene therapy applications have focused on rational design or library-based approaches that can address one or two desirable attributes; however, there is an unmet need to comprehensively improve AAV vector properties. Here, we solve the structures of a natural AAV isolate complexed with antibodies using cryo-electron microscopy and harness this structural information to engineer AAV capsid libraries through saturation mutagenesis of different antigenic footprints. Each surface loop was evolved by infectious cycling in the presence of a helper adenovirus to yield a new AAV variant that then serves as a template for evolving the next surface loop. This stepwise process yielded a humanized AAV8 capsid (AAVhum.8) displaying nonnatural surface loops that simultaneously display tropism for human hepatocytes, increased gene transfer efficiency, and neutralizing antibody evasion. Specifically, AAVhum.8 can better evade neutralizing antisera from multiple species than AAV8. Further, AAVhum.8 displays robust transduction in a human liver xenograft mouse model with expanded tropism for both murine and human hepatocytes. This work supports the hypothesis that critical properties, such as AAV capsid antibody evasion and tropism, can be coevolved by combining rational design and library-based evolution for clinical gene therapy.

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