The absence of Mertk in RCS rats results in defective RPE phagocytosis, accumulation of outer segment (OS) debris in the subretinal space, and subsequent death of photoreceptors. Previous research utilizing Mertk gene replacement therapy in RCS rats provided proof of concept for treatment of this form of recessive retinitis pigmentosa (RP); however, the beneficial effects on retinal function were transient. In the present study, we evaluated whether delivery of a MERTK transgene using a tyrosine-mutant AAV8 capsid could lead to more robust and longer-term therapeutic outcomes than previously reported.
An AAV8 Y733F vector expressing a human MERTK cDNA driven by a RPE-selective promoter was administrated subretinally at postnatal day 2. Functional and morphological analyses were performed at 4 months and 8 months post-treatment. Retinal vasculature and Müller cell activation were analyzed by quantifying acellular capillaries and glial fibrillary acidic protein immunostaining, respectively.
Electroretinographic responses from treated eyes were more than one-third of wild-type levels and OS were well preserved in the injection area even at 8 months. Rescue of RPE phagocytosis, prevention of retinal vasculature degeneration, and inhibition of Müller cell activation were demonstrated in the treated eyes for at least 8 months.
This research describes a longer and much more robust functional and morphological rescue than previous studies. We also demonstrate for the first time that an AAV8 mutant capsid serotype vector has a substantial therapeutic potential for RPE-specific gene delivery. These results suggest that tyrosine-mutant AAV8 vectors hold promise for the treatment of individuals with MERTK-associated RP.
"35 Following these discoveries, capsid-mutant AAV vectors have been investigated in proof-of-concept therapy studies for retinal dystrophies in rodent models and have been shown to provide long-term rescue of a variety of photoreceptor dystrophies in mice 36–39 and rats. 40 "
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Recombinant adeno-associated viruses are important vectors for retinal gene delivery. Currently utilized vectors have relatively slow onset and for efficient transduction it is necessary to deliver treatment subretinally, with the potential for damage to the retina. Amino-acid substitutions in the viral capsid improve efficiency in rodent eyes by evading host responses. As dogs are important large animal models for human retinitis pigmentosa, we evaluated the speed and efficiency of retinal transduction using capsid-mutant vectors injected both subretinally and intravitreally. We evaluated AAV serotypes 2 and 8 with amino-acid substitutions of surface exposed capsid tyrosine residues. The chicken beta-actin promoter was used to drive green fluorescent protein expression. Twelve normal adult beagles were injected, 4 dogs received intravitreal injections, 8 dogs received subretinal injections. Capsid-mutant viruses tested included AAV2(quad Y-F) (intravitreal and subretinal), and self-complementary scAAV8(Y733F) (subretinal only). Contralateral control eyes received injections of scAAV5 (subretinal) or scAAV2 (intravitreal). Subretinally delivered vectors had a faster expression onset than intravitreally delivered vectors. Subretinally delivered scAAV8(Y733F) had a faster onset of expression than scAAV5. All subretinally injected vector types transduced the outer retina with high efficiency, and the inner retina with moderate efficiency. Intravitreally delivered AAV2(quad Y-F) had a marginally higher efficiency of transduction of both outer retinal and inner retinal cells than scAAV2. Because of their rapid expression onset and efficient transduction, subretinally delivered capsid-mutant AAV8 vectors may increase the efficacy of gene therapy treatment for rapid photoreceptor degenerative diseases. With further refinement, capsid-mutant AAV2 vectors show promise for retinal gene delivery from an intravitreal approach.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The complexity of living systems exceeds everything else studied by natural sciences. Sophisticated networks of intimately intertwined signaling pathways coordinate cellular functions. Clear understanding how the integration of multiple inputs produces coherent behavior is one of the major challenges of cell biology. Integration via perfectly timed highly regulated protein-protein interactions and precise targeting of the "output" proteins to particular substrates is emerging as a common theme of signaling regulation. This often involves specialized scaffolding proteins, whose key function is to ensure that correct partners come together in an appropriate place at the right time. Defective or faulty signaling underlies many congenital and acquired human disorders. Several pioneering studies showed that ectopic expression of existing proteins or their elements can restore functions destroyed by mutations or normalize the signaling pushed out of balance by disease and/or current small molecule-based therapy. Several recent studies show that proteins with new functional modalities can be generated by mixing and matching existing domains, or via functional recalibration and fine-tuning of existing proteins by precisely targeted mutations. Using arrestins as an example, we describe how manipulation of individual functions yields signaling-biased proteins. Creative protein redesign generates novel tools valuable for unraveling the intricacies of cell biology. Engineered proteins with specific functional changes also have huge therapeutic potential in disorders associated with inherited or acquired signaling errors.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Blindness affects 60 million people worldwide. The leading causes of irreversible blindness include age-related macular degeneration, retinal vascular diseases and glaucoma. The unique features of the eye provide both benefits and challenges for drug discovery and delivery. During the past decade, the landscape for ocular drug therapy has substantially changed and our knowledge of the pathogenesis of ophthalmic diseases has grown considerably. Anti-angiogenic drugs have emerged as the most effective form of therapy for age-related macular degeneration and retinal vascular diseases. Lowering intraocular pressure is still the mainstay for glaucoma treatment but neuroprotective drugs represent a promising next-generation therapy. This Review discusses the current state of ocular drug therapy and highlights future therapeutic opportunities.
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