Activation of the NF-κB pathway by adeno-associated virus (AAV) vectors and its implications in immune response and gene therapy

Giridhara R. Jayandharan, George Aslanidi, Ashley T. Martino, Stephan C. Jahn, George Q. Perrin, Roland W. Herzog, Arun Srivastava

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62 Scopus citations


Because our in silico analysis with a human transcription factor database demonstrated the presence of several binding sites for NF-κB, a central regulator of cellular immune and inflammatory responses, in the adeno-associated virus (AAV) genome, we investigated whether AAV uses NF-κB during its life cycle. We used small molecule modulators of NF-κB in HeLa cells transduced with recombinant AAV vectors. VP16, an NF-κB activator, augmented AAV vector-mediated transgene expression up to 25-fold. Of the two NF-κB inhibitors, Bay11, which blocks both the canonical and the alternative NF-κB pathways, totally ablated transgene expression, whereas pyrrolidone dithiocarbamate, which interferes with the classical NF-κB pathway, had no effect. Western blot analyses confirmed the abundance of the nuclear p52 protein component of the alternative NF-κB pathway in the presence of VP16, which was ablated by Bay11, suggesting that AAV transduction activates the alternative NF-κB pathway. In vivo, hepatic AAV gene transfer activated the canonical NF-κB pathway within 2 h, resulting in expression of proinflammatory cytokines and chemokines (likely reflecting the sensing of viral particles by antigen-presenting cells), whereas the alternative pathway was activated by 9 h. Bay11 effectively blocked activation of both pathways without interfering with long-term transgene expression while eliminating proinflammatory cytokine expression. These studies suggest that transient immunosuppression with NF-κB inhibitors before transduction with AAV vectors should lead to a dampened immune response, which has significant implications in the optimal use of AAV vectors in human gene therapy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3743-3748
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number9
StatePublished - Mar 1 2011
Externally publishedYes


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