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Epigenetic Silencing of Recombinant Adeno-associated Virus Genomes by NP220 and the HUSH Complex

The single-stranded DNA genome of adeno-associated viruses (AAV) undergoes second-strand synthesis and transcription in the host cell nucleus. While wild-type AAV genomes are naturally silenced upon integration into the host genome, recombinant AAV (rAAV) genomes typically provide robust expression of transgenes persisting as extrachromosomal DNA or episomes. Episomal DNA associating with host histones is subject to epigenetic modifications, although the mechanisms underlying such are not well understood. Here, we provide evidence that the double-stranded DNA binding protein NP220, in association with the human silencing hub (HUSH) complex, mediates transcriptional silencing of single-stranded as well as self-complementary rAAV genomes. In cells lacking NP220 or other components of the HUSH complex, AAV genome transcript levels are increased and correlate with a marked reduction in repressive H3K9 histone methylation marks. We also provide evidence that the AAV capsid (serotype) can profoundly influence NP220-mediated silencing of packaged genomes, indicating potential role(s) for capsid-genome or capsid-host factor interactions in regulating epigenetic silencing of rAAV genomes.

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