Mol Ther. 2023 Dec 18:S1525-0016(23)00679-2. doi: 10.1016/j.ymthe.2023.12.015. Online ahead of print.
Manufacturing sufficient Adeno-Associated Virus (AAV) to meet current and projected clinical needs is a significant hurdle to the growing gene therapy industry. The recently discovered membrane-associated accessory protein (MAAP) is encoded by an alternative open reading frame in the AAV cap gene that is found in all presently reported natural serotypes. Recent evidence has emerged supporting a functional role of MAAP in AAV egress, though the underlying mechanisms of MAAP function remain unknown. Here, we show that inactivation of MAAP from AAV2 by a single point mutation that is silent in the VP1 ORF (AAV2-ΔMAAP) decreased exosome-associated and secreted vector genome production. We hypothesized that novel MAAP variants could be evolved to increase AAV production and thus subjected a library encoding over 1E6 MAAP protein variants to five rounds of packaging selection into the AAV2-ΔMAAP capsid. Between each successive packaging round, we observed a progressive increase in both overall titer and ratio of secreted vector genomes conferred by the bulk selected MAAP library population. Next-generation sequencing uncovered enriched mutational features, and a resulting selected MAAP variant containing missense mutations and a novel C-terminal domain increased overall GFP transgene packaging in AAV2, AAV6, and AAV9 capsids.