Toll-like receptor 2–mediated innate immune response in human nonparenchymal liver cells toward adeno-associated viral vectors


  • Potential conflict of interest: Nothing to report.


Adeno-associated viral vectors (rAAV) are frequently used in gene therapy trials. Although rAAV vectors are of low immunogenicity, humoral as well as T cell responses may be induced. While the former limits vector reapplication, the expansion of cytotoxic T cells correlates with liver inflammation and loss of transduced hepatocytes. Because adaptive immune responses are a consequence of recognition by the innate immune system, we aimed to characterize cell autonomous immune responses elicited by rAAV in primary human hepatocytes and nonparenchymal liver cells. Surprisingly, Kupffer cells, but also liver sinusoidal endothelial cells, mounted responses to rAAV, whereas neither rAAV2 nor rAAV8 were recognized by hepatocytes. Viral capsids were sensed at the cell surface as pathogen-associated molecular patterns by Toll-like receptor 2. In contrast to the Toll-like receptor 9–mediated recognition observed in plasmacytoid dendritic cells, immune recognition of rAAV in primary human liver cells did not induce a type I interferon response, but up-regulated inflammatory cytokines through activation of nuclear factor κB. Conclusion: Using primary human liver cells, we identified a novel mechanism of rAAV recognition in the liver, demonstrating that alternative means of sensing rAAV particles have evolved. Minimizing this recognition will be key to improving rAAV-mediated gene transfer and reducing side effects in clinical trials due to immune responses against rAAV. (Hepatology 2012;55:287–297)