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AAV Virus-Like Particles (VLPs)

AAV virus-like particles (sometimes referred to as AAV empty capsids) are well-characterized AAV capsids devoid of any viral genomic material that are widely used as reference materials during the development of AAV-based gene therapies. AAV virus-like particles can not only be used for the calibration and optimization of various analytical assays including ELISA and HPLC, but they can be used for various other applications during the drug development process, including biodistribution assessment and evaluation of in vivo immune responses to specific serotypes of AAV capsid. Our ready-to-ship AAV virus-like particles are extensively characterized and therefore, serve as reliable standards for evaluating the quality of AAV virus-like particles generated in-house. Moreover, they can be used as negative controls in studies aiming to demonstrate that an observed effect is caused by the expression cassette harbored by an AAV vector rather than its capsid. AAV virus-like particles also serve as critical tools for studying various processes during the AAV life cycle including capsid assembly and post-translational modifications of capsid proteins. In addition to AAV virus-like particles, we also offer AAV packaging and GMP-grade AAV manufacturing.

  • Ready-to-ship in vivo grade AAV virus-like particles of serotypes 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 8, 9, and 2-retro.
  • Custom services available for AAV virus-like particles produced using any desired serotype, production system, purification method, or QC requirement
  • Thorough characterization using various methods including SDS-PAGE, BCA, endotoxin testing, mycoplasma detection, and full/empty capsid ratio analysis

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*VPs = Virus Particles

Click here to view the amino acid sequence of the major viral capsid protein 1 (VP1) for different AAV serotypes >>
Shipping and storage

Our AAV virus-like particles are stored in a PBS-based buffer and are shipped on dry ice. Upon receiving, they should be stored at -80°C for long term (stable for at least 1 year), or -20°C for short term, e.g. 2-3 weeks. Thawed AAV virus-like particles can be stored at 4 °C for 1-2 weeks.

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Technical Information

Experimental validation

Silver stained SDS-PAGE results: AAV empty capsids (serotype 1, 2, 5, 8, 9).

Figure 1. Silver stained SDS-PAGE of ready-to-ship AAV virus-like particles of serotypes 1, 2, 5, 8, and 9.

AAV VLPsCharge detection mass spectrometry (CDMS) analysis example for AAV8 empty capsid with 99.4% empty rate.
Conventional AAVCharge detection mass spectrometry (CDMS) analysis example for AAV8 with 15.7% empty rate and 72.5% filled rate.

Figure 2. Charge detection mass spectrometry analysis indicating percentages of empty (black) and filled (green) capsids for AAV virus-like particles and conventional AAV preparations of serotype 8.

Transmission electron microscopy (TEM) image for AAV9 virus-like particles (a.k.a AAV9 empty capsid).

Figure 3. Transmission electron microscopy of serotype 9 AAV virus-like particles showing empty (black-filled spheres) and filled (white-filled spheres) capsids.

Tissue tropism of AAV serotypes

Many strains of AAV have been identified in nature. They are divided into serotypes based on different antigenicity of the capsid protein on the viral surface. Different serotypes can render the virus with different tissue tropism (i.e. tissue specificity of infection). When AAV vectors are packaged into the virus, different serotypes can be conferred to the virus by using different capsid proteins for the packaging. The tables below list the tissue specificity conferred by different AAV serotypes.

List by Serotype
List by Tissue Type
Serotype Tissue tropism
AAV1 Smooth muscle, skeletal muscle, CNS, brain, lung, retina, inner ear, pancreas, heart, liver
AAV2 Smooth muscle, CNS, brain, liver, pancreas, kidney, retina, inner ear, testes
AAV3 Smooth muscle, liver, lung
AAV4 CNS, retina, lung, kidney, heart
AAV5 Smooth muscle, CNS, brain, lung, retina, heart
AAV6 Smooth muscle, heart, lung, pancreas, adipose, liver
AAV6.2 Lung, liver, inner ear
AAV7 Smooth muscle, retina, CNS, brain, liver
AAV8 Smooth muscle, CNS, brain, retina, inner ear, liver, pancreas, heart, kidney, adipose
AAV9 Smooth muscle, skeletal muscle, lung, liver, heart, pancreas, CNS, retina, inner ear, testes, kidney, adipose
AAV-rh10 Smooth muscle, lung, liver, heart, pancreas, CNS, retina, kidney
AAV-DJ Liver, heart, kidney, spleen
AAV-DJ/8 Liver, brain, spleen, kidney
AAV2-retro Spinal nerves
AAV2-QuadYF Endothelial cell, retina
AAV2.7m8 Retina, inner ear
Tissue type Recommended AAV serotypes
Smooth muscle AAV1, AAV2, AAV3, AAV5, AAV6, AAV7, AAV8, AAV9, AAV-rh10
Skeletal muscle AAV1, AAV9
Brain AAV1, AAV2, AAV5, AAV7, AAV8, AAV-DJ/8
Retina AAV1, AAV2, AAV4, AAV5, AAV7, AAV8, AAV9, AAV-rh10, AAV2-QuadYF, AAV2.7m8
Inner ear AAV1, AAV2, AAV6.2, AAV8, AAV9, AAV2.7m8
Lung AAV1, AAV3, AAV4, AAV5, AAV6, AAV6.2, AAV9, AAV-rh10
Liver AAV1, AAV2, AAV3, AAV6, AAV6.2, AAV7, AAV8, AAV9, AAV-rh10, AAV-DJ, AAV-DJ/8
Pancreas AAV1, AAV2, AAV6, AAV8, AAV9, AAV-rh10
Heart AAV1, AAV4, AAV5, AAV6, AAV8, AAV9, AAV-rh10, AAV-DJ
Kidney AAV2, AAV4, AAV8, AAV9, AAV-rh10, AAV-DJ, AAV-DJ/8
Adipose AAV6, AAV8, AAV9
Testes AAV2, AAV9
Spleen AAV-DJ, AAV-DJ/8
Spinal nerves AAV2-retro
Endothelial cells AAV2-QuadYF


What type of QC assays does VectorBuilder offer for characterizing AAV virus-like particles?

All AAV virus-like particles produced by VectorBuilder are extensively characterized using various QC assays. While we perform SDS-PAGE, BCA, endotoxin testing, and mycoplasma detection on all our AAV virus-like particles by default, we can also offer TEM, CDMS, SV-AUC services for custom built AAV to determine full/empty capsid ratio upon request.

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