Adeno-Associated Viral Vector vs. Adenoviral Vector

What's the Difference?

Adeno-Associated Viral Vector (AAV) and Adenoviral Vector are both commonly used in gene therapy, but they differ in several aspects. AAV is a small, non-pathogenic virus that can infect both dividing and non-dividing cells, making it suitable for long-term gene expression. It has a low immunogenicity and can efficiently deliver genetic material to target cells without causing significant immune responses. On the other hand, Adenoviral Vector is a larger, pathogenic virus that can only infect dividing cells. It has a high immunogenicity, which can trigger immune responses and limit its long-term gene expression capabilities. However, adenoviral vectors have a high transduction efficiency and can deliver large DNA payloads, making them useful for short-term gene expression studies. Overall, the choice between AAV and adenoviral vectors depends on the specific requirements of the gene therapy application.


AttributeAdeno-Associated Viral VectorAdenoviral Vector
SizeSmall (20-25 nm)Large (70-90 nm)
GenomeSingle-stranded DNADouble-stranded DNA
IntegrationSite-specific integrationNon-integrating
ImmunogenicityLow immunogenicityHigh immunogenicity
Payload capacityUp to 4.7 kbUp to 36 kb
Transduction efficiencyEfficient in dividing and non-dividing cellsEfficient in dividing cells
Long-term expressionPotential for long-term expressionTransient expression
ApplicationsGene therapy, gene delivery, vaccinesGene therapy, gene delivery, vaccines

Further Detail


Gene therapy has emerged as a promising approach for the treatment of various genetic disorders and acquired diseases. One of the key components of gene therapy is the delivery of therapeutic genes into target cells. Adeno-associated viral vectors (AAV) and adenoviral vectors are two commonly used tools for gene delivery. While both vectors have their advantages and limitations, understanding their attributes is crucial for selecting the most appropriate vector for specific applications.

Structure and Characteristics

AAV and adenoviral vectors differ in their structure and characteristics. AAV is a small, non-enveloped virus with a single-stranded DNA genome. It belongs to the Parvoviridae family and has a diameter of approximately 20-25 nm. In contrast, adenoviral vectors are larger, enveloped viruses with a double-stranded DNA genome. They belong to the Adenoviridae family and have a diameter of around 70-90 nm.

AAV vectors have a high degree of genetic stability and can efficiently transduce both dividing and non-dividing cells. They have a low immunogenicity, which reduces the risk of immune responses upon administration. Adenoviral vectors, on the other hand, have a high transduction efficiency and can accommodate larger transgenes. They are particularly effective in transducing dividing cells due to their ability to induce cell cycle progression.

Transduction Efficiency

Transduction efficiency is a critical factor in gene therapy. AAV vectors have a relatively low transduction efficiency compared to adenoviral vectors. This is mainly due to their limited packaging capacity, which restricts the size of the transgene they can carry. However, AAV vectors have the advantage of long-term transgene expression, as they can establish a stable episomal state in the host cell nucleus. Adenoviral vectors, on the other hand, provide high-level transgene expression but only for a limited duration, as they do not integrate into the host genome.

Immune Response

The immune response triggered by viral vectors is an important consideration in gene therapy. AAV vectors have a low immunogenicity, making them an attractive choice for long-term gene expression. They are less likely to induce an immune response, allowing for repeated administration if necessary. Adenoviral vectors, however, have a higher immunogenicity and can elicit a robust immune response. This immune response can limit the effectiveness of the vector upon subsequent administrations.

Target Cell Tropism

The ability of a vector to target specific cell types is crucial for the success of gene therapy. AAV vectors have a broad tropism and can transduce a wide range of cell types, including both dividing and non-dividing cells. They can efficiently cross the blood-brain barrier, making them suitable for neurological applications. Adenoviral vectors, on the other hand, have a relatively narrow tropism and primarily target dividing cells. They are commonly used for applications such as cancer gene therapy and vaccination.

Integration and Safety

Integration of the vector genome into the host cell genome can have implications for the safety of gene therapy. AAV vectors have a low integration rate and preferentially remain episomal, reducing the risk of insertional mutagenesis. This feature enhances the safety profile of AAV vectors. Adenoviral vectors, on the other hand, do not integrate into the host genome and remain as episomes. However, they can induce a transient inflammatory response, which can be a safety concern in certain applications.


Both AAV and adenoviral vectors have found numerous applications in gene therapy. AAV vectors are commonly used for the treatment of inherited genetic disorders, such as hemophilia and muscular dystrophy. They have also shown promise in the field of ocular gene therapy, with successful clinical trials for the treatment of inherited retinal diseases. Adenoviral vectors, on the other hand, have been extensively used in cancer gene therapy, where their ability to efficiently transduce dividing cells is advantageous. They have also been employed in vaccine development, as they can induce potent immune responses.


Adeno-associated viral vectors and adenoviral vectors are valuable tools in gene therapy, each with its own set of attributes. AAV vectors offer long-term transgene expression, low immunogenicity, and broad tropism, making them suitable for various applications. Adenoviral vectors, on the other hand, provide high transduction efficiency, larger transgene capacity, and efficient targeting of dividing cells. The choice between the two vectors depends on the specific requirements of the therapeutic application, taking into consideration factors such as transduction efficiency, immune response, target cell tropism, integration, and safety. Continued research and advancements in vector engineering will further enhance the capabilities of these vectors, paving the way for more effective and targeted gene therapies.

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