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Mol Ther. 2006 Mar;13(3):517-27. Epub 2005 Dec 1.

Efficient neuronal gene transfer with AAV8 leads to neurotoxic levels of tau or green fluorescent proteins.

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Department of Pharmacology, Toxicology and Neuroscience, Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center, Shreveport, LA 71130, USA.


Adeno-associated virus (AAV) serotype 8 appears to be the strongest of the natural serotypes reported to date for gene transfer in liver and muscle. In this study, we evaluated AAV8 in the brain by several methods, including biophotonic imaging of green fluorescent protein (GFP). In the adult rat hippocampus, levels of GFP expressed were clearly greater with AAV8 than with AAV2 or AAV5 by Western blot and biophotonic imaging and slightly but significantly greater than AAV1 by Western blot. In the substantia nigra, the GFP expression conferred by AAV8 was toxic to dopamine neurons, although toxicity could be avoided with dose titration. At the low dose at which there was no GFP toxicity from the GFP vector, another AAV8 vector for a disease-related (P301L) form of the microtubule-associated protein tau caused a 78% loss of dopamine neurons and significant amphetamine-stimulated rotational behavior. The AAV8 tau vector-induced cell loss was greater than that from AAV2 or AAV5 tau vectors, demonstrating that the increased gene transfer was functional. While the toxicity observed with GFP expression warrants great caution, the efficient AAV8 is promising for animal models of neurodegenerative diseases and potentially as well for gene therapy of brain diseases.

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