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Host Immune Responses after Suprachoroidal Delivery of AAV8 in Nonhuman Primate Eyes.


The suprachoroid is a potential space located between the sclera and choroid of the eye, which provides a novel route for ocular drug or viral vector delivery. Suprachoroidal injection of adeno-associated virus (AAV)8 using transscleral microneedles enables widespread transgene expression in eyes of nonhuman primates, but may cause intraocular inflammation. We characterized the host humoral and cellular immune responses after suprachoroidal delivery of AAV8 expressing green fluorescent protein (GFP) in rhesus macaques, and found that it can induce mild chorioretinitis that resolves after systemic corticosteroid administration, with recovery of photoreceptor morphology, but persistent immune cell infiltration after 3 months, corresponding to a loss of GFP expression from retinal pigment epithelial cells, but persistent expression in scleral fibroblasts. Suprachoroidal AAV8 triggered B cell and T cell responses against GFP, but only mild antibody responses to the viral capsid compared to intravitreal injections of the same vector and dose. Systemic biodistribution studies showed lower AAV8 levels in liver and spleen after suprachoroidal injection compared with intravitreal delivery. Our findings suggest that suprachoroidal AAV8 primarily triggers host immune responses to GFP, likely due to sustained transgene expression in scleral fibroblasts outside the blood-retinal barrier, but elicits less humoral immune reactivity to the viral capsid than intravitreal delivery due to lower egress into systemic circulation. As GFP is not native to primates and not a clinically relevant transgene, suprachoroidal AAV delivery of human transgenes may have significant translational potential for retinal gene therapy.

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