Cross-Core Collaboration Poster wins at ABRF Conference
A scientific poster presented at the recent ABRF Annual Meeting in Myrtle Beach proved to be a winner! The poster describes a unique cross-core collaboration between ICBR colleagues Angel Sampson, Yanping Zhang, Paul Chipman, and Steve Madore that was initiated and managed by Professor Mavis Agbandje-McKenna, Director of the UF Center for Structural Biology, and her graduate students Mario Mietzsch and Ariana Jose. Dr. Agbandje-McKenna studies the feasibility of using Adeno-associated virus (AAV) as a vehicle to deliver gene therapy in humans. Multiple AAV serotypes exist that differ in tropism – the cell or tissue type(s) preferred by the virus for infection – making them valuable tools for targeting delivery of genetic material to specific cell types. AAV is a common and naturally occurring virus ubiquitous in our environment. Thus, people previously infected by “wildtype” AAV are less likely to respond to AAV therapies due to pre-existing antibodies that block genetically engineered AAV from attaching to cells.
In this study, monoclonal antibodies were developed in the ICBR MA core that recognize specific protein spikes on the surface of the AAV particle. Using a method called Cryo Electron Microscopy, the ICBR EM core generated many images of AAV decorated with fragmented monoclonal antibodies to help Dr. Agbandje-McKenna define the 3-dimensional structure of the virus particle/antibody complex. The ICBR Gene Expression core isolated and sequenced the gene region encoding the part of the antibody molecule that specifically binds to the viral spike proteins. This allowed Dr. Agbandje-McKenna to generate protein structure models that predict which antibody subunits (amino acid residues) interact with the viral protein spikes. By studying the intricate molecular details of AAV-antibody complex structures, Dr. Agbandje-McKenna aspires to make genetically engineered AAV invisible to the immune system by modifying viral surface proteins recognized by pre-existing antibodies. Ultimately, this will facilitate the effective use of AAVs for gene therapy without the complication of viral particle/antibody neutralization in patients.
The submitted poster made it through a rigorous review process for scientific merit by a panel of expert judges. During this judging process, Dr. Sampson was required to give a 5 minute presentation and answer questions. Upon being selected as the top poster, Dr. Sampson then gave a 10 minute oral presentation in front of the ABRF meeting attendees. She received a certificate and $500 travel award donated by the Waters Corporation. Congratulations to all contributing members of the McKenna Research Group and ICBR staff on this fantastic award!