Expressing transgenes that exceed the packaging capacity of adeno-associated virus capsids

Kyle Chamberlain, Jalish Mahmud Riyad, Thomas Weber

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

100 Scopus citations


Recombinant adeno-associated virus vectors (rAAV) are being explored as gene delivery vehicles for the treatment of various inherited and acquired disorders. rAAVs are attractive vectors for several reasons: wild-type AAVs are nonpathogenic, and rAAVs can trigger long-term transgene expression even in the absence of genome integration - at least in postmitotic tissues. Moreover, rAAVs have a low immunogenic profile, and the various AAV serotypes and variants display broad but distinct tropisms. One limitation of rAAVs is that their genome-packaging capacity is only ∼5 kb. For most applications this is not of major concern because the median human protein size is 375 amino acids. Excluding the ITRs, for a protein of typical length, this allows the incorporation of ∼3.5 kb of DNA for the promoter, polyadenylation sequence, and other regulatory elements into a single AAV vector. Nonetheless, for certain diseases the packaging limit of AAV does not allow the delivery of a full-length therapeutic protein by a single AAV vector. Hence, approaches to overcome this limitation have become an important area of research for AAV gene therapy. Among the most promising approaches to overcome the limitation imposed by the packaging capacity of AAV is the use of dual-vector approaches, whereby a transgene is split across two separate AAV vectors. Coinfection of a cell with these two rAAVs will then - through a variety of mechanisms - result in the transcription of an assembled mRNA that could not be encoded by a single AAV vector because of the DNA packaging limits of AAV. The main purpose of this review is to assess the current literature with respect to dual-AAV-vector design, to highlight the effectiveness of the different methodologies and to briefly discuss future areas of research to improve the efficiency of dual-AAV-vector transduction.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalHuman gene therapy methods
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2016


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