Impact of dual-baculovirus infection on the Sf9 insect cell transcriptome during rAAV production using single-cell RNA-seq

Nikolaus Virgolini, Marco Silvano, Ryan Hagan, Ricardo Correia, Paula M. Alves, Colin Clarke, António Roldão, Inês A. Isidro

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
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The insect cell-baculovirus expression vector system (IC-BEVS) has shown to be a powerful platform to produce complex biopharmaceutical products, such as recombinant proteins and virus-like particles. More recently, IC-BEVS has also been used as an alternative to produce recombinant adeno-associated virus (rAAV). However, little is known about the variability of insect cell populations and the potential effect of heterogeneity (e.g., stochastic infection process and differences in infection kinetics) on product titer and/or quality. In this study, transcriptomics analysis of Sf9 insect cells during the production of rAAV of serotype 2 (rAAV2) using a low multiplicity of infection, dual-baculovirus system was performed via single-cell RNA-sequencing (scRNA-seq). Before infection, the principal source of variability in Sf9 insect cells was associated with the cell cycle. Over the course of infection, an increase in transcriptional heterogeneity was detected, which was linked to the expression of baculovirus genes as well as to differences in rAAV transgenes (rep, cap and gfp) expression. Noteworthy, at 24 h post-infection, only 29.4% of cells enclosed all three necessary rAAV transgenes to produce packed rAAV2 particles, indicating limitations of the dual-baculovirus system. In addition, the trajectory analysis herein performed highlighted that biological processes such as protein folding, metabolic processes, translation, and stress response have been significantly altered upon infection. Overall, this work reports the first application of scRNA-seq to the IC-BEVS and highlights significant variations in individual cells within the population, providing insight into the rational cell and process engineering toward improved rAAV2 production in IC-BEVS.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2588-2600
Number of pages13
JournalBiotechnology and Bioengineering
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2023


  • adeno-associated virus
  • baculovirus infection
  • BEVS
  • biopharmaceutical production
  • gene therapy vector
  • RNA-seq


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