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Induction of antigen-specific tolerance by hepatic AAV immunotherapy regardless of T cell epitope usage or mouse strain background

Keeler, G;Gaddie, C;Sagadevan, A;Senior, K;Côté, I;Rechdan, M;Min, D;Mahan, D;Poma, B;Hoffman, B;

In vivo induction of antigen (Ag)-specific regulatory T cells (Treg) is considered the holy grail of therapeutic strategies for restoring tolerance in autoimmunity. Unfortunately, in the autoimmune disease multiple sclerosis, an effective and durable therapy targeting the diverse repertoire of emerging Ags without compromising the patient’s natural immunity has remained elusive. To address this deficiency, we have developed an Ag-specific adeno-associated virus (AAV) immunotherapy that will restore tolerance in a Treg-dependent manner. Using multiple strains of mice with different genetic and immunological backgrounds, we demonstrate that a liver directed AAV vector expressing a single transgene can prevent experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis from developing and effectively mitigate pre-existing or established disease that was induced by one or more auto-reactive myelin oligodendrocyte glycoprotein-derived peptides. Overall, the results suggests that AAV can efficiently restore Ag-specific immune tolerance to an immunogenic protein that is neither restricted by the major histocompatibility complex haplotype, nor by the specific antigenic epitope(s) presented. These findings may pave the way for developing a comprehensive Ag-specific immunotherapy that does not require prior knowledge of the specific immunogenic epitopes and that may prove to be universally applicable to all MS patients, and adaptable for other autoimmune diseases.