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Mol Ther. 2015 Apr;23(4):675-82. doi: 10.1038/mt.2015.3. Epub 2015 Jan 14.

High capsid-genome correlation facilitates creation of AAV libraries for directed evolution.

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Cardiovascular Research Center, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, New York, USA.
Department of Genetics and Genomic Sciences, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, New York, USA.


Directed evolution of adeno-associated virus (AAV) through successive rounds of phenotypic selection is a powerful method to isolate variants with improved properties from large libraries of capsid mutants. Importantly, AAV libraries used for directed evolution are based on the "natural" AAV genome organization where the capsid proteins are encoded in cis from replicating genomes. This is necessary to allow the recovery of the capsid DNA after each step of phenotypic selection. For directed evolution to be used successfully, it is essential to minimize the random mixing of capsomers and the encapsidation of nonmatching viral genomes during the production of the viral libraries. Here, we demonstrate that multiple AAV capsid variants expressed from Rep/Cap containing viral genomes result in near-homogeneous capsids that display an unexpectedly high capsid-DNA correlation. Next-generation sequencing of AAV progeny generated by bulk transfection of a semi-random peptide library showed a strong counter-selection of capsid variants encoding premature stop codons, which further supports a strong capsid-genome identity correlation. Overall, our observations demonstrate that production of "natural" AAVs results in low capsid mosaicism and high capsid-genome correlation. These unique properties allow the production of highly diverse AAV libraries in a one-step procedure with a minimal loss in phenotype-genotype correlation.

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