Gene Therapy

Tang JCY, Rudolph S, Dhande OS, Abraira VE, Choi S, Lapan SW, Drew IR, Drokhlyansky E, Huberman AD, Regehr WG, Cepko CL. Cell type-specific manipulation with GFP-dependent Cre recombinase. Nat Neurosci 2015;18(9):1334-41.Abstract

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.

Zinn E, Pacouret S, Khaychuk V, Turunen HT, Carvalho LS, Andres-Mateos E, Shah S, Shelke R, Maurer AC, Plovie E, Xiao R, Vandenberghe LH. In Silico Reconstruction of the Viral Evolutionary Lineage Yields a Potent Gene Therapy Vector. Cell Rep 2015;12(6):1056-68.Abstract

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.

Choi VW, Bigelow CE, McGee TL, Gujar AN, Li H, Hanks SM, Vrouvlianis J, Maker M, Leehy B, Zhang Y, Aranda J, Bounoutas G, Demirs JT, Yang J, Ornberg R, Wang Y, Martin W, Stout KR, Argentieri G, Grosenstein P, Diaz D, Turner O, Jaffee BD, Police SR, Dryja TP. AAV-mediated RLBP1 gene therapy improves the rate of dark adaptation in Rlbp1 knockout mice. Mol Ther Methods Clin Dev 2015;2:15022.Abstract

Recessive mutations in RLBP1 cause a form of retinitis pigmentosa in which the retina, before its degeneration leads to blindness, abnormally slowly recovers sensitivity after exposure to light. To develop a potential gene therapy for this condition, we tested multiple recombinant adeno-associated vectors (rAAVs) composed of different promoters, capsid serotypes, and genome conformations. We generated rAAVs in which sequences from the promoters of the human RLBP1, RPE65, or BEST1 genes drove the expression of a reporter gene (green fluorescent protein). A promoter derived from the RLBP1 gene mediated expression in the retinal pigment epithelium and Müller cells (the intended target cell types) at qualitatively higher levels than in other retinal cell types in wild-type mice and monkeys. With this promoter upstream of the coding sequence of the human RLBP1 gene, we compared the potencies of vectors with an AAV2 versus an AAV8 capsid in transducing mouse retinas, and we compared vectors with a self-complementary versus a single-stranded genome. The optimal vector (scAAV8-pRLBP1-hRLBP1) had serotype 8 capsid and a self-complementary genome. Subretinal injection of scAAV8-pRLBP1-hRLBP1 in Rlbp1 nullizygous mice improved the rate of dark adaptation based on scotopic (rod-plus-cone) and photopic (cone) electroretinograms (ERGs). The effect was still present after 1 year.

von Alpen D, Tran HV, Guex N, Venturini G, Munier FL, Schorderet DF, Haider NB, Escher P. Differential Dimerization of Variants Linked to Enhanced S-Cone Sensitivity Syndrome (ESCS) Located in the NR2E3 Ligand-Binding Domain. Hum Mutat 2015;36(6):599-610.Abstract

NR2E3 encodes the photoreceptor-specific nuclear hormone receptor that acts as a repressor of cone-specific gene expression in rod photoreceptors, and as an activator of several rod-specific genes. Recessive variants located in the ligand-binding domain (LBD) of NR2E3 cause enhanced short wavelength sensitive- (S-) cone syndrome (ESCS), a retinal degeneration characterized by an excess of S-cones and non-functional rods. We analyzed the dimerization properties of NR2E3 and the effect of disease-causing LBD missense variants by bioluminescence resonance energy transfer (BRET(2) ) protein interaction assays. Homodimerization was not affected in presence of p.A256V, p.R039G, p.R311Q, and p.R334G variants, but abolished in presence of p.L263P, p.L336P, p.L353V, p.R385P, and p.M407K variants. Homology modeling predicted structural changes induced by NR2E3 LBD variants. NR2E3 LBD variants did not affect interaction with CRX, but with NRL and rev-erbα/NR1D1. CRX and NRL heterodimerized more efficiently together, than did either with NR2E3. NR2E3 did not heterodimerize with TLX/NR2E1 and RXRα/NR2C1. The identification of a new compound heterozygous patient with detectable rod function, who expressed solely the p.A256V variant protein, suggests a correlation between LBD variants able to form functional NR2E3 dimers and atypical mild forms of ESCS with residual rod function.

Fuentealba LC, Rompani SB, Parraguez JI, Obernier K, Romero R, Cepko CL, Alvarez-Buylla A. Embryonic Origin of Postnatal Neural Stem Cells. Cell 2015;161(7):1644-55.Abstract

Adult neural stem/progenitor (B1) cells within the walls of the lateral ventricles generate different types of neurons for the olfactory bulb (OB). The location of B1 cells determines the types of OB neurons they generate. Here we show that the majority of mouse B1 cell precursors are produced between embryonic days (E) 13.5 and 15.5 and remain largely quiescent until they become reactivated postnatally. Using a retroviral library carrying over 100,000 genetic tags, we found that B1 cells share a common progenitor with embryonic cells of the cortex, striatum, and septum, but this lineage relationship is lost before E15.5. The regional specification of B1 cells is evident as early as E11.5 and is spatially linked to the production of neurons that populate different areas of the forebrain. This study reveals an early embryonic regional specification of postnatal neural stem cells and the lineage relationship between them and embryonic progenitor cells.

Conde P, Rodriguez M, van der Touw W, Jimenez A, Burns M, Miller J, Brahmachary M, Chen H-M, Boros P, Rausell-Palamos F, Yun TJ, Riquelme P, Rastrojo A, Aguado B, Stein-Streilein J, Tanaka M, Zhou L, Zhang J, Lowary TL, Ginhoux F, Park CG, Cheong C, Brody J, Turley SJ, Lira SA, Bronte V, Gordon S, Heeger PS, Merad M, Hutchinson J, Chen S-H, Ochando J. DC-SIGN(+) Macrophages Control the Induction of Transplantation Tolerance. Immunity 2015;42(6):1143-58.Abstract

Tissue effector cells of the monocyte lineage can differentiate into different cell types with specific cell function depending on their environment. The phenotype, developmental requirements, and functional mechanisms of immune protective macrophages that mediate the induction of transplantation tolerance remain elusive. Here, we demonstrate that costimulatory blockade favored accumulation of DC-SIGN-expressing macrophages that inhibited CD8(+) T cell immunity and promoted CD4(+)Foxp3(+) Treg cell expansion in numbers. Mechanistically, that simultaneous DC-SIGN engagement by fucosylated ligands and TLR4 signaling was required for production of immunoregulatory IL-10 associated with prolonged allograft survival. Deletion of DC-SIGN-expressing macrophages in vivo, interfering with their CSF1-dependent development, or preventing the DC-SIGN signaling pathway abrogated tolerance. Together, the results provide new insights into the tolerogenic effects of costimulatory blockade and identify DC-SIGN(+) suppressive macrophages as crucial mediators of immunological tolerance with the concomitant therapeutic implications in the clinic.

Carvalho LS, Vandenberghe LH. Promising and delivering gene therapies for vision loss. Vision Res 2015;111(Pt B):124-33.Abstract
The maturity in our understanding of the genetics and the pathogenesis of disease in degenerative retinal disorders has intersected in past years with a novel treatment paradigm in which a genetic intervention may lead to sustained therapeutic benefit, and in some cases even restoration of vision. Here, we review this prospect of retinal gene therapy, discuss the enabling technologies that have led to first-in-human demonstrations of efficacy and safety, and the road that led to this exciting point in time.
Hou Y, Lin H, Zhu L, Liu Z, Hu F, Shi J, Yang T, Shi X, Guo H, Tan X, Zhang L, Wang Q, Li Z, Zhao Y. The inhibitory effect of IFN-γ on protease HTRA1 expression in rheumatoid arthritis. J Immunol 2014;193(1):130-8.Abstract
The high temperature requirement A1 (HTRA1) is a potent protease involved in many diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis (RA). However, the regulatory mechanisms that control HTRA1 expression need to be determined. In this study, we demonstrated that IFN-γ significantly inhibited the basal and LPS-induced HTRA1 expression in fibroblasts and macrophages, which are two major cells for HTRA1 production in RA. Importantly, the inhibitory effect of IFN-γ on HTRA1 expression was evidenced in collagen-induced arthritis (CIA) mouse models and in human RA synovial cells. In parallel with the enhanced CIA incidence and pathological changes in IFN-γ-deficient mice, HTRA1 expression in the joint tissues was also increased as determined by real-time PCR and Western blots. IFN-γ deficiency increased the incidence of CIA and the pathological severity in mice. Neutralization of HTRA1 by Ab significantly reversed the enhanced CIA frequency and severity in IFN-γ-deficient mice. Mechanistically, IFN-γ negatively controls HTRA1 expression through activation of p38 MAPK/STAT1 pathway. Dual luciferase reporter assay and chromatin immunoprecipitation analysis showed that STAT1 could directly bind to HTRA1 promoter after IFN-γ stimulation. This study offers new insights into the molecular regulation of HTRA1 expression and its role in RA pathogenesis, which may have significant impact on clinical therapy for RA and possibly other HTRA1-related diseases, including osteoarthritis, age-related macular degeneration, and cancer.
Heidary G, Calderwood L, Cox GF, Robson CD, Teot LA, Mullon J, Anselm I. Optic atrophy and a Leigh-like syndrome due to mutations in the c12orf65 gene: report of a novel mutation and review of the literature. J Neuroophthalmol 2014;34(1):39-43.Abstract
Combined oxidative phosphorylation deficiency type 7 (COXPD7) is a rare disorder of mitochondrial metabolism that results in optic atrophy and Leigh syndrome-like disease. We describe 2 siblings with compound heterozygous mutations in the recently identified C12orf65 gene who presented with optic atrophy and mild developmental delays and subsequently developed bilateral, symmetric lesions in the brainstem reminiscent of Leigh syndrome. Repeat neuroimaging demonstrated reversibility of the findings in 1 sibling and persistent metabolic stroke in the other. This article highlights the phenotypic manifestations from a novel mutation in the C12orf65 gene and reviews the clinical presentation of the 5 other individuals reported to date who carry mutations in this gene.
Cruz NM, Yuan Y, Leehy BD, Baid R, Kompella U, Deangelis MM, Escher P, Haider NB. Modifier genes as therapeutics: the nuclear hormone receptor Rev Erb alpha (Nr1d1) rescues Nr2e3 associated retinal disease. PLoS One 2014;9(1):e87942.Abstract
Nuclear hormone receptors play a major role in many important biological processes. Most nuclear hormone receptors are ubiquitously expressed and regulate processes such as metabolism, circadian function, and development. They function in these processes to maintain homeostasis through modulation of transcriptional gene networks. In this study we evaluate the effectiveness of a nuclear hormone receptor gene to modulate retinal degeneration and restore the integrity of the retina. Currently, there are no effective treatment options for retinal degenerative diseases leading to progressive and irreversible blindness. In this study we demonstrate that the nuclear hormone receptor gene Nr1d1 (Rev-Erbα) rescues Nr2e3-associated retinal degeneration in the rd7 mouse, which lacks a functional Nr2e3 gene. Mutations in human NR2E3 are associated with several retinal degenerations including enhanced S cone syndrome and retinitis pigmentosa. The rd7 mouse, lacking Nr2e3, exhibits an increase in S cones and slow, progressive retinal degeneration. A traditional genetic mapping approach previously identified candidate modifier loci. Here, we demonstrate that in vivo delivery of the candidate modifier gene, Nr1d1 rescues Nr2e3 associated retinal degeneration. We observed clinical, histological, functional, and molecular restoration of the rd7 retina. Furthermore, we demonstrate that the mechanism of rescue at the molecular and functional level is through the re-regulation of key genes within the Nr2e3-directed transcriptional network. Together, these findings reveal the potency of nuclear receptors as modulators of disease and specifically of NR1D1 as a novel therapeutic for retinal degenerations.
Qazi Y, Hamrah P. Gene therapy in corneal transplantation. Semin Ophthalmol 2013;28(5-6):287-300.Abstract
Corneal transplantation is the most commonly performed organ transplantation. Immune privilege of the cornea is widely recognized, partly because of the relatively favorable outcome of corneal grafts. The first-time recipient of corneal allografts in an avascular, low-risk setting can expect a 90% success rate without systemic immunosuppressive agents and histocompatibility matching. However, immunologic rejection remains the major cause of graft failure, particularly in patients with a high risk for rejection. Corticosteroids remain the first-line therapy for the prevention and treatment of immune rejection. However, current pharmacological measures are limited in their side-effect profiles, repeated application, lack of targeted response, and short duration of action. Experimental ocular gene therapy may thus present new horizons in immunomodulation. From efficient viral vectors to sustainable alternative splicing, we discuss the progress of gene therapy in promoting graft survival and postulate further avenues for gene-mediated prevention of allogeneic graft rejection.
Mizeracka K, Trimarchi JM, Stadler MB, Cepko CL. Analysis of gene expression in wild-type and Notch1 mutant retinal cells by single cell profiling. Dev Dyn 2013;242(10):1147-59.Abstract
BACKGROUND: The vertebrate retina comprises sensory neurons, the photoreceptors, as well as many other types of neurons and one type of glial cell. These cells are generated by multipotent and restricted retinal progenitor cells (RPCs), which express Notch1. Loss of Notch1 in RPCs late during retinal development results in the overproduction of rod photoreceptors at the expense of interneurons and glia. RESULTS: To examine the molecular underpinnings of this observation, microarray analysis of single retinal cells from wild-type or Notch1 conditional knockout retinas was performed. In situ hybridization was carried out to validate some of the findings. CONCLUSIONS: The majority of Notch1-mutant cells lost expression of known Notch target genes. These cells also had low levels of RPC and cell cycle genes, and robustly up-regulated rod precursor genes. In addition, single wild-type cells, in which cell cycle marker genes were down-regulated, expressed markers of both rod photoreceptors and interneurons.
Qu J, Jakobs TC. The Time Course of Gene Expression during Reactive Gliosis in the Optic Nerve. PLoS One 2013;8(6):e67094.Abstract
Reactive gliosis is a complex process that involves changes in gene expression and morphological remodeling. The mouse optic nerve, where astrocytes, microglia and oligodendrocytes interact with retinal ganglion cell axons and each other, is a particularly suitable model for studying the molecular mechanisms of reactive gliosis. We triggered gliosis at the mouse optic nerve head by retro orbital nerve crush. We followed the expression profiles of 14,000 genes from 1 day to 3 months, as the optic nerve formed a glial scar. The transcriptome showed profound changes. These were greatest shortly after injury; the numbers of differentially regulated genes then dropped, returning nearly to resting levels by 3 months. Different genes were modulated with very different time courses, and functionally distinct groups of genes responded in partially overlapping waves. These correspond roughly to two quick waves of inflammation and cell proliferation, a slow wave of tissue remodeling and debris removal, and a final stationary phase that primarily reflects permanent structural changes in the axons. Responses from astrocytes, microglia and oligodendrocytes were distinctively different, both molecularly and morphologically. Comparisons to other models of brain injury and to glaucoma indicated that the glial responses depended on both the tissue and the injury. Attempts to modulate glial function after axonal injuries should consider different mechanistic targets at different times following the insult.