Hongyan Wang

University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, MA, United States

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Publications (10)54.14 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: Some recombinant adeno-associated viruses (rAAVs) can cross the neonatal blood-brain barrier (BBB) and efficiently transduce cells of the central nervous system (CNS). However, in the adult CNS, transduction levels by systemically delivered rAAVs are significantly reduced, limiting their potential for CNS gene therapy. Here, we characterized 12 different rAAVEGFPs in the adult mouse CNS following intravenous delivery. We show that the capability of crossing the adult BBB and achieving widespread CNS transduction is a common character of AAV serotypes tested. Of note, rAAVrh.8 is the leading vector for robust global transduction of glial and neuronal cell types in regions of clinical importance such as cortex, caudate-putamen, hippocampus, corpus callosum and substantia nigra. It also displays reduced peripheral tissue tropism compared to other leading vectors. Additionally, we evaluated rAAVrh.10 with and without microRNA (miRNA)-regulated expressional detargeting from peripheral tissues for systemic gene delivery to the CNS in marmosets. Our results indicate that rAAVrh.8, along with rh.10 and 9, hold the best promise for developing novel therapeutic strategies to treat neurological diseases in the adult patient population. Additionally, systemically delivered rAAVrh.10 can transduce the CNS efficiently and its transgene expression can be limited in the periphery by endogenous miRNAs in adult marmosets.Molecular Therapy (2014); doi:10.1038/mt.2014.68.
    Molecular Therapy 04/2014; · 7.04 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a fatal neurological disease that causes motor neuron degeneration, progressive motor dysfunction, paralysis, and death. Although multiple causes have been identified for this disease, >95% of ALS cases show aggregation of transactive response DNA binding protein (TDP-43) accompanied by its nuclear depletion. Therefore, the TDP-43 pathology may be a converging point in the pathogenesis that originates from various initial triggers. The aggregation is thought to result from TDP-43 misfolding, which could generate cellular toxicity. However, the aggregation as well as the nuclear depletion could also lead to a partial loss of TDP-43 function or TDP-43 dysfunction. To investigate the impact of TDP-43 dysfunction, we generated a transgenic mouse model for a partial loss of TDP-43 function using transgenic RNAi. These mice show ubiquitous transgene expression and TDP-43 knockdown in both the periphery and the central nervous system (CNS). Strikingly, these mice develop progressive neurodegeneration prominently in cortical layer V and spinal ventral horn, motor dysfunction, paralysis, and death. Furthermore, examination of splicing patterns of TDP-43 target genes in human ALS revealed changes consistent with TDP-43 dysfunction. These results suggest that the CNS, particularly motor neurons, possess a heightened vulnerability to TDP-43 dysfunction. Additionally, because TDP-43 knockdown predominantly occur in astrocytes in the spinal cord of these mice, our results suggest that TDP-43 dysfunction in astrocytes is an important driver for motor neuron degeneration and clinical phenotypes of ALS.
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 03/2014; · 9.81 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) causes motor neuron degeneration and paralysis. No treatment can significantly slow or arrest the disease progression. Mutations in the SOD1 gene cause a subset of familial ALS by a gain of toxicity. In principle, these cases could be treated with RNAi that destroys the mutant mRNA, thereby abolishing the toxic protein. However, no system is available to efficiently deliver the RNAi therapy. Recombinant adenoassociated virus (rAAV) is a promising vehicle due to its long-lasting gene expression and low toxicity. However, ALS afflicts broad areas of the central nervous system (CNS). A lack of practical means to spread rAAV broadly has hindered its application in treatment of ALS. To overcome this barrier, we injected several rAAV serotypes into the cerebrospinal fluid. We found that some rAAV serotypes such as rAAVrh10 and rAAV9 transduced cells throughout the length of the spinal cord following a single intrathecal injection and in the broad forebrain following a single injection into the third ventricle. Furthermore, a single intrathecal injection of rAAVrh10 robustly transduced motor neurons throughout the spinal cord in a non-human primate. These results suggested a therapeutic potential of this vector for ALS. To test this, we injected a rAAVrh10 vector that expressed an artificial miRNA targeting SOD1 into the SOD1G93A mice. This treatment knocked down the mutant SOD1 expression and slowed the disease progression. Our results demonstrate the potential of rAAVs for delivering gene therapy to treat ALS and other diseases that afflict broad areas of the CNS.
    Human Molecular Genetics 10/2013; · 7.69 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: BACKGROUND: A proline-to-serine substitution at position-56 (P56S) of vesicle-associated membrane protein-associated protein B (VAPB) causes a form of dominantly inherited motor neuron disease (MND), including typical and atypical amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and a mild late-onset spinal muscular atrophy (SMA). VAPB is an integral endoplasmic reticulum (ER) protein and has been implicated in various cellular processes, including ER stress, the unfolded protein response (UPR) and Ca2+ homeostasis. However, it is unclear how the P56S mutation leads to neurodegeneration and muscle atrophy in patients. The formation of abnormal VAPB-positive inclusions by mutant VAPB suggests a possible toxic gain of function as an underlying mechanism. Furthermore, the amount of VAPB protein is reported to be reduced in sporadic ALS patients and mutant SOD1G93A mice, leading to the hypothesis that wild type VAPB plays a role in the pathogenesis of ALS without VAPB mutations. RESULTS: To investigate the pathogenic mechanism in vivo, we generated human wild type (wtVAPB) and mutant VAPB (muVAPB) transgenic mice that expressed the transgenes broadly in the CNS. We observed robust VAPB-positive aggregates in the spinal cord of muVAPB transgenic mice. However, we failed to find an impairment of motor function and motor neuron degeneration. We also did not detect any change in the endogenous VAPB level or evidence for induction of the unfolded protein response (UPR) and coaggregation of VAPA with muVAPB. Furthermore, we crossed these VAPB transgenic mice with mice that express mutant SOD1G93A and develop motor neuron degeneration. Overexpression of neither wtVAPB nor muVAPB modulated the protein aggregation and disease progression in the SOD1G93A mice. CONCLUSION: Overexpression of VAPBP56S mutant to approximately two-fold of the endogenous VAPB in mouse spinal cord produced abundant VAPB aggregates but was not sufficient to cause motor dysfunction or motor neuron degeneration. Furthermore, overexpression of either muVAPB or wtVAPB does not modulate the course of ALS in SOD1G93A mice. These results suggest that changes in wild type VAPB do not play a significant role in ALS cases that are not caused by VAPB mutations. Furthermore, these results suggest that muVAPB aggregates are innocuous and do not cause motor neuron degeneration by a gain-of-toxicity, and therefore, a loss of function may be the underlying mechanism.
    Molecular Neurodegeneration 01/2013; 8(1):1. · 4.01 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Mutations in the gene encoding human SOD1 (hSOD1) can cause amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) yet the mechanism by which mutant SOD1 can induce ALS is not fully understood. There is currently no cure for ALS or treatment that significantly reduces symptoms or progression. To develop tools to understand the protein conformations present in mutant SOD1-induced ALS and as possible immunotherapy, we isolated and characterized eleven unique human monoclonal antibodies specific for hSOD1. Among these, five recognized distinct linear epitopes on hSOD1 that were not available in the properly-folded protein but were available on forms of protein with some degree of misfolding. The other six antibodies recognized conformation-dependent epitopes that were present in the properly-folded protein with two different recognition profiles: three could bind hSOD1 dimer or monomer and the other three were specific for hSOD1 dimer only. Antibodies with the capacity to bind hSOD1 monomer were able to prevent increased hydrophobicity when mutant hSOD1 was exposed to increased temperature and EDTA, suggesting that the antibodies stabilized the native structure of hSOD1. Two antibodies were tested in a G93A mutant hSOD1 transgenic mouse model of ALS but did not yield a statistically significant increase in overall survival. It may be that the two antibodies selected for testing in the mouse model were not effective for therapy or that the model and/or route of administration were not optimal to produce a therapeutic effect. Therefore, additional testing will be required to determine therapeutic potential for SOD1 mutant ALS and potentially some subset of sporadic ALS.
    PLoS ONE 01/2013; 8(4):e61210. · 3.53 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Noninvasive systemic gene delivery to the central nervous system (CNS) has largely been impeded by the blood-brain barrier (BBB). Recent studies documented widespread CNS gene transfer after intravascular delivery of recombinant adeno-associated virus 9 (rAAV9). To investigate alternative and possibly more potent rAAV vectors for systemic gene delivery across the BBB, we systematically evaluated the CNS gene transfer properties of nine different rAAVEGFP vectors after intravascular infusion in neonatal mice. Several rAAVs efficiently transduce neurons, motor neurons, astrocytes, and Purkinje cells; among them, rAAVrh.10 is at least as efficient as rAAV9 in many of the regions examined. Importantly, intravenously delivered rAAVs did not cause abnormal microgliosis in the CNS. The rAAVs that achieve stable widespread gene transfer in the CNS are exceptionally useful platforms for the development of therapeutic approaches for neurological disorders affecting large regions of the CNS as well as convenient biological tools for neuroscience research.
    Molecular Therapy 05/2011; 19(8):1440-8. · 7.04 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: RNA interference (RNAi) mediates sequence-specific gene silencing, which can be harnessed to silencing disease-causing genes for therapy. Particularly suitable diseases are those caused by dominant, gain-of-function type of gene mutations. In these diseases, the mutant gene generates a mutant protein or RNA product, which possesses toxic properties that harm cells. By silencing the mutant gene, the toxicity can be lessened because the amount of the toxic product is lowered in cells. In this report, we tested RNAi therapy in a mouse model for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), which causes motor neuron degeneration, paralysis, and death. We used a transgenic model that overexpresses mutant Cu, Zn superoxide dismutase (SOD1G93A), which causes ALS by a gained toxic property. We delivered RNAi using recombinant adenovirus (RAd) and adeno-associated virus serotype 2 (AAV2). We compared the efficiency of RNAi delivery between injecting the viral vectors into muscle and into nerve, and found that nerve injetion is more efficient in delivering RNAi to motor neurons. Based on this data, we conducted therapeutic trials in the mouse model and found that nerve injection of RAd, but not AAV2, at the disease onset had a modest therapeutic efficacy. These results highlight the potential and the challenges in delivering RNAi therapy by gene therapy.
    Antioxidants & Redox Signaling 05/2009; 11(7):1523-34. · 8.20 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Transgenic RNAi holds promise as a simple, low-cost, and fast method for reverse genetics in mammals. It may be particularly useful for producing animal models for hypomorphic gene function. Inducible RNAi that permits spatially and temporally controllable gene silencing in vivo will enhance the power of transgenic RNAi approach. Furthermore, because microRNA (miRNA) targeting specific genes can be expressed simultaneously with protein coding genes, incorporation of fluorescent marker proteins can simplify the screening and analysis of transgenic RNAi animals. We sought to optimally express a miRNA simultaneously with a fluorescent marker. We compared two construct designs. One expressed a red fluorescent protein (RFP) and a miRNA placed in its 3' untranslated region (UTR). The other expressed the same RFP and miRNA, but the precursor miRNA (pre-miRNA) coding sequence was placed in an intron that was inserted into the 3'-UTR. We found that the two constructs expressed comparable levels of miRNA. However, the intron-containing construct expressed a significantly higher level of RFP than the intron-less construct. Further experiments indicate that the 3'-UTR intron enhances RFP expression by its intrinsic gene-expression-enhancing activity and by eliminating the inhibitory effect of the pre-miRNA on the expression of RFP. Based on these findings, we incorporated the intron-embedded pre-miRNA design into a conditional expression construct that employed the Cre-loxP system. This construct initially expressed EGFP gene, which was flanked by loxP sites. After exposure to Cre recombinase, the transgene stopped EGFP expression and began expression of RFP and a miRNA, which silenced the expression of specific cellular genes. We have designed and tested a conditional miRNA-expression construct and showed that this construct expresses both the marker genes strongly and can silence the target gene efficiently upon Cre-mediated induction of the miRNA expression. This construct can be used to increase the efficiency of making cell lines or transgenic animals that stably express miRNA targeting specific genes.
    BMC Biotechnology 11/2008; 8:77. · 2.17 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Inherited neurodegenerative diseases, such as Huntington disease and subset of Alzheimer disease, Parkinson disease, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, are caused by the mutant genes that have gained undefined properties that harm cells in the nervous system, causing neurodegeneration and clinical phenotypes. Lowering the mutant gene expression is predicted to slow the disease progression and produce clinical benefit. Administration of small interfering RNA (siRNA) can silence specific genes. However, long term delivery of siRNA to silence the mutant genes, a requirement for treatment of these chronic central nervous system (CNS) diseases, remains a critical unsolved issue. Here we designed and tested a chemically stabilized siRNA against human Cu,Zn-superoxide dismutase (SOD1) in a mouse model for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. We show that the modified siRNA has enhanced stability and retains siRNA activity. Administration of this siRNA at the disease onset by long term infusion into the CNS resulted in widespread distribution of this siRNA, knocked down the mutant SOD1 expression, slowed the disease progression, and extended the survival. These results bring RNA interference therapy one step closer to its clinical application for treatment of chronic, devastating, and fatal CNS disorders.
    Journal of Biological Chemistry 07/2008; 283(23):15845-52. · 4.65 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Inherited neurodegenerative diseases, such as Huntington disease (HD) and subset of Alzheimer disease (AD), Parkinson disease (PD) and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), are caused by the mutant genes that have gained undefined properties that harm cells in the nervous system, causing neurodegeneration and clinical phenotypes. Lowering the mutant gene expression is predicted to slow the disease progression and produce clinical benefit. Administration of small interfering RNA (siRNA) can silence specific genes. However, long term delivery of siRNA to silence the mutant genes, a requirement for treatment of these chronic CNS diseases, remains a critical unsolved issue. Here we designed and tested a chemically stabilized siRNA against human Cu, Zn superoxide dismutase (SOD1) in a mouse model for ALS. We show that the modified siRNA has enhanced stability and retains siRNA activity. Administration of this siRNA at the disease onset by long term infusion into the central nervous system (CNS) resulted in widespread distribution of this siRNA, knocked down the mutant SOD1 expression, slowed the disease progression and extended the survival. These results bring RNAi therapy one step closer to its clinical application for treatment of chronic, devastating and fatal CNS disorders. Treatment of age-dependent neurodegenerative diseases, including HD, AD, PD and ALS, is a serious challenge for the 21 st century medicine. While all cases of HD are caused by mutations in the huntingtin (htt) gene, other diseases have both sporadic and familial cases. Regardless, highly efficacious treatment is lacking for all of these diseases. A promising therapeutic strategy for these diseases is to inhibit the expression of genes that are required in the pathogenic pathways. This concept is straightforward in cases where genetic mutations lead to a gain of toxicity for the gene product, which harm cells in the CNS. By inhibiting the expression of the toxic gene product, one may predict a reduction in the toxicity and a slower cell death, and consequently, a slower disease progression. The effectiveness of this therapeutic approach has been demonstrated by experiments in animal models using virus-delivered and transgenic RNAi (reviewed in (1).
    01/2008;