Characterization of adeno-associated virus genomes isolated from human tissues

Bruce C. Schnepp, Ryan L. Jensen, Chun Liang Chen, Philip R. Johnson, K. Reed Clark

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

176 Scopus citations


Infection with wild-type adeno-associaied virus (AAV) is common in humans, but very little is known about the in vivo biology of AAV. On a molecular level, it has been shown in cultured cells that AAV integrates in a site-specific manner on human chromosome 19, but this has never been demonstrated directly in infected human tissues. To that end, we tested 175 tissue samples for the presence of AAV DNA, and when present, examined the specific form of the viral DNA. AAV was detected in 7 of 101 tonsil-adenoid samples and in 2 of 74 other tissue samples (spleen and lung). In these nine samples, we were unable to detect AAV integration in the AAVS1 locus using a sensitive PCR assay designed to amplify specific viral-cellular DNA junctions. Additionally, we used a second complementary assay, linear amplification-mediated-PCR (LAM-PCR) to widen our search for integration events. Analysis of individual LAM-PCR products revealed that the AAV genomes were arranged predominantly in a head-to-tail array, with deletions and extensive rearrangements in the inverted terminal repeat sequences. A single AAV-cellular junction was identified from a tonsil sample and it mapped to a highly repetitive satellite DNA element on chromosome 1. Given these data, we entertained the possibility that instead of integrated forms, AAV genomes were present as extrachromosomal forms. We used a novel amplification assay (linear rolling-circle amplification) to show that the majority of wild-type AAV DNA existed as circular double-stranded episomes in our tissues. Thus, following naturally acquired infection, AAV DNA can persist mainly as circular episomes in human tissues. These findings are consistent with the circular episomal forms of recombinant AAV vectors that have been isolated and characterized from in vivo transduced tissues.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)14793-14803
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of virology
Issue number23
StatePublished - Dec 2005
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Insect Science
  • Virology
  • Microbiology
  • Immunology


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