Gene Therapy Publications
Because there are currently no biological treatments for hearing loss, we sought to advance gene therapy approaches to treat genetic deafness. We focused on Usher syndrome, a devastating genetic disorder that causes blindness, balance disorders and profound deafness, and studied a knock-in mouse model, Ush1c c.216G>A, for Usher syndrome type IC (USH1C). As restoration of complex auditory and balance function is likely to require gene delivery systems that target auditory and vestibular sensory cells with high efficiency, we delivered wild-type Ush1c into the inner ear of Ush1c c.216G>A mice using a synthetic adeno-associated viral vector, Anc80L65, shown to transduce 80-90% of sensory hair cells. We demonstrate recovery of gene and protein expression, restoration of sensory cell function, rescue of complex auditory function and recovery of hearing and balance behavior to near wild-type levels. The data represent unprecedented recovery of inner ear function and suggest that biological therapies to treat deafness may be suitable for translation to humans with genetic inner ear disorders.
Efforts to develop gene therapies for hearing loss have been hampered by the lack of safe, efficient, and clinically relevant delivery modalities. Here we demonstrate the safety and efficiency of Anc80L65, a rationally designed synthetic vector, for transgene delivery to the mouse cochlea. Ex vivo transduction of mouse organotypic explants identified Anc80L65 from a set of other adeno-associated virus (AAV) vectors as a potent vector for the cochlear cell targets. Round window membrane injection resulted in highly efficient transduction of inner and outer hair cells in mice, a substantial improvement over conventional AAV vectors. Anc80L65 round window injection was well tolerated, as indicated by sensory cell function, hearing and vestibular function, and immunologic parameters. The ability of Anc80L65 to target outer hair cells at high rates, a requirement for restoration of complex auditory function, may enable future gene therapies for hearing and balance disorders.
PURPOSE: Inherited retinal dystrophies are a significant cause of vision loss and are characterized by the loss of photoreceptors and the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE). Mutations in approximately 250 genes cause inherited retinal degenerations with a high degree of genetic heterogeneity. New techniques in next-generation sequencing are allowing the comprehensive analysis of all retinal disease genes thus changing the approach to the molecular diagnosis of inherited retinal dystrophies. This review serves to analyze clinical progress in genetic diagnostic testing and implications for retinal gene therapy. METHODS: A literature search of PubMed and OMIM was conducted to relevant articles in inherited retinal dystrophies. RESULTS: Next-generation genetic sequencing allows the simultaneous analysis of all the approximately 250 genes that cause inherited retinal dystrophies. Reported diagnostic rates range are high and range from 51% to 57%. These new sequencing tools are highly accurate with sensitivities of 97.9% and specificities of 100%. Retinal gene therapy clinical trials are underway for multiple genes including RPE65, ABCA4, CHM, RS1, MYO7A, CNGA3, CNGB3, ND4, and MERTK for which a molecular diagnosis may be beneficial for patients. CONCLUSION: Comprehensive next-generation genetic sequencing of all retinal dystrophy genes is changing the paradigm for how retinal specialists perform genetic testing for inherited retinal degenerations. Not only are high diagnostic yields obtained, but mutations in genes with novel clinical phenotypes are also identified. In the era of retinal gene therapy clinical trials, identifying specific genetic defects will increasingly be of use to identify patients who may enroll in clinical studies and benefit from novel therapies.
Cell types are the basic building blocks of multicellular organisms and are extensively diversified in animals. Despite recent advances in characterizing cell types, classification schemes remain ambiguous. We propose an evolutionary definition of a cell type that allows cell types to be delineated and compared within and between species. Key to cell type identity are evolutionary changes in the 'core regulatory complex' (CoRC) of transcription factors, that make emergent sister cell types distinct, enable their independent evolution and regulate cell type-specific traits termed apomeres. We discuss the distinction between developmental and evolutionary lineages, and present a roadmap for future research.
Within the next decade, we will see many gene therapy clinical trials for eye diseases progress, which may lead to treatments for thousands of visually impaired people around the world. To target retinal diseases that affect specific cell types, several recombinant adeno-associated virus (AAV) serotypes have been generated and used successfully in pre-clinical mouse studies. Because there are numerous anatomic, and physiologic differences between the eyes of mice and 'men' and because surgical delivery approaches and immunologic responses also differ between these species, we evaluated the transduction characteristics of two promising new serotypes AAV7m8 and AAV8BP2, in retinas of animals that are most similar to those of humans: non-human primates (NHPs). We report that while AAV7m8 efficiently targets a variety of cell types by subretinal injection in NHPs, transduction after intravitreal delivery was mostly restricted to the inner retina at lower doses that did not induce an immune response. AAV8BP2 targets the cone photoreceptors efficiently but bipolar cells inefficiently by subretinal injection. Additionally, we observed transduction of both serotypes in the anterior chamber of the eye and the optic pathway of the brain post intravitreal delivery. Finally, we assessed immunogenicity, keeping in mind that these AAV capsids may be used in future clinical trials. We found that AAV8BP2 had a better safety profile compared to AAV7m8 even at the highest doses administered. Our studies underscore the differences in AAV transduction between mice and primates highlighting the importance of careful evaluation of therapeutic vectors in NHPs prior to moving into clinical trials.
Patterns of gene expression can be used to characterize and classify neuronal types. It is challenging, however, to generate taxonomies that fulfill the essential criteria of being comprehensive, harmonizing with conventional classification schemes, and lacking superfluous subdivisions of genuine types. To address these challenges, we used massively parallel single-cell RNA profiling and optimized computational methods on a heterogeneous class of neurons, mouse retinal bipolar cells (BCs). From a population of ∼25,000 BCs, we derived a molecular classification that identified 15 types, including all types observed previously and two novel types, one of which has a non-canonical morphology and position. We validated the classification scheme and identified dozens of novel markers using methods that match molecular expression to cell morphology. This work provides a systematic methodology for achieving comprehensive molecular classification of neurons, identifies novel neuronal types, and uncovers transcriptional differences that distinguish types within a class.
The ability to detect and/or manipulate specific cell populations based upon the presence of intracellular protein epitopes would enable many types of studies and applications. Protein binders such as nanobodies (Nbs) can target untagged proteins (antigens) in the intracellular environment. However, genetically expressed protein binders are stable regardless of antigen expression, complicating their use for applications that require cell-specificity. Here, we created a conditional system in which the stability of an Nb depends upon an antigen of interest. We identified Nb framework mutations that can be used to rapidly create destabilized Nbs. Fusion of destabilized Nbs to various proteins enabled applications in living cells, such as optogenetic control of neural activity in specific cell types in the mouse brain, and detection of HIV-infected human cells by flow cytometry. These approaches are generalizable to other protein binders, and enable the rapid generation of single-polypeptide sensors and effectors active in cells expressing specific intracellular proteins.
Leber congenital amaurosis (LCA) is a severe disorder resulting in visual impairment usually starting in the first year of life. The most frequent genetic cause of LCA is an intronic mutation in CEP290 (c.2991+1655A>G) that creates a cryptic splice donor site resulting in the insertion of a pseudoexon (exon X) into CEP290 mRNA. Previously, we showed that naked antisense oligonucleotides (AONs) effectively restored normal CEP290 splicing in patient-derived lymphoblastoid cells. We here explore the therapeutic potential treatment of naked and AAV-packaged AONs in vitro and in vivo In both cases, AON delivery fully restored CEP290 pre-mRNA splicing, significantly increased CEP290 protein levels and rescued a ciliary phenotype present in patient-derived fibroblast cells. Moreover, administration of naked and AAV-packaged AONs to the retina of a humanized mutant Cep290 mouse model, carrying the intronic mutation, showed a statistically significant reduction of exon X-containing Cep290 transcripts, without compromising the retinal structure. Together, our data highlight the tremendous therapeutic prospective of AONs for the treatment of not only CEP290-associated LCA but potentially many other subtypes of retinal dystrophy caused by splicing mutations.
Viruses have been used as transsynaptic tracers, allowing one to map the inputs and outputs of neuronal populations, due to their ability to replicate in neurons and transmit in vivo only across synaptically connected cells. To date, their use has been largely restricted to mammals. In order to explore the use of such viruses in an expanded host range, we tested the transsynaptic tracing ability of recombinant vesicular stomatitis virus (rVSV) vectors in a variety of organisms. Successful infection and gene expression were achieved in a wide range of organisms, including vertebrate and invertebrate model organisms. Moreover, rVSV enabled transsynaptic tracing of neural circuitry in predictable directions dictated by the viral envelope glycoprotein (G), derived from either VSV or rabies virus (RABV). Anterograde and retrograde labeling, from initial infection and/or viral replication and transmission, was observed in Old and New World monkeys, seahorses, jellyfish, zebrafish, chickens, and mice. These vectors are widely applicable for gene delivery, afferent tract tracing, and/or directional connectivity mapping. Here, we detail the use of these vectors and provide protocols for propagating virus, changing the surface glycoprotein, and infecting multiple organisms using several injection strategies. © 2016 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Vesicular stomatitis virus has been shown to bud basolaterally, and the matrix protein, but not glycoprotein, was proposed to mediate this asymmetry. Using polarized T84 monolayers, we demonstrate that no single viral protein is sufficient for polarized budding. Particles are released from the apical and basolateral surfaces and are indistinguishable, indicating that there is no apical assembly defect. We propose that aspects of host cell polarity create a more efficient budding process at the basolateral surface.
The medial ganglionic eminence (MGE) gives rise to the majority of mouse forebrain interneurons. Here, we examine the lineage relationship among MGE-derived interneurons using a replication-defective retroviral library containing a highly diverse set of DNA barcodes. Recovering the barcodes from the mature progeny of infected progenitor cells enabled us to unambiguously determine their respective lineal relationship. We found that clonal dispersion occurs across large areas of the brain and is not restricted by anatomical divisions. As such, sibling interneurons can populate the cortex, hippocampus striatum, and globus pallidus. The majority of interneurons appeared to be generated from asymmetric divisions of MGE progenitor cells, followed by symmetric divisions within the subventricular zone. Altogether, our findings uncover that lineage relationships do not appear to determine interneuron allocation to particular regions. As such, it is likely that clonally related interneurons have considerable flexibility as to the particular forebrain circuits to which they can contribute.
The mammalian neocortex is composed of two major neuronal cell types with distinct origins: excitatory pyramidal neurons and inhibitory interneurons, generated in dorsal and ventral progenitor zones of the embryonic telencephalon, respectively. Thus, inhibitory neurons migrate relatively long distances to reach their destination in the developing forebrain. The role of lineage in the organization and circuitry of interneurons is still not well understood. Utilizing a combination of genetics, retroviral fate mapping, and lineage-specific retroviral barcode labeling, we find that clonally related interneurons can be widely dispersed while unrelated interneurons can be closely clustered. These data suggest that migratory mechanisms related to the clustering of interneurons occur largely independent of their clonal origin.
There are many transgenic GFP reporter lines that allow the visualization of specific populations of cells. Using such lines for functional studies requires a method that transforms GFP into a molecule that enables genetic manipulation. We developed a method that exploits GFP for gene manipulation, Cre recombinase dependent on GFP (CRE-DOG), a split component system that uses GFP and its derivatives to directly induce Cre/loxP recombination. Using plasmid electroporation and AAV viral vectors, we delivered CRE-DOG to multiple GFP mouse lines, which led to effective recombination selectively in GFP-labeled cells. Furthermore, CRE-DOG enabled optogenetic control of these neurons. Beyond providing a new set of tools for manipulation of gene expression selectively in GFP(+) cells, we found that GFP can be used to reconstitute the activity of a protein not known to have a modular structure, suggesting that this strategy might be applicable to a wide range of proteins.
Adeno-associated virus (AAV) vectors have emerged as a gene-delivery platform with demonstrated safety and efficacy in a handful of clinical trials for monogenic disorders. However, limitations of the current generation vectors often prevent broader application of AAV gene therapy. Efforts to engineer AAV vectors have been hampered by a limited understanding of the structure-function relationship of the complex multimeric icosahedral architecture of the particle. To develop additional reagents pertinent to further our insight into AAVs, we inferred evolutionary intermediates of the viral capsid using ancestral sequence reconstruction. In-silico-derived sequences were synthesized de novo and characterized for biological properties relevant to clinical applications. This effort led to the generation of nine functional putative ancestral AAVs and the identification of Anc80, the predicted ancestor of the widely studied AAV serotypes 1, 2, 8, and 9, as a highly potent in vivo gene therapy vector for targeting liver, muscle, and retina.