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Nora Overlack, Tobias Goldmann, Uwe Wolfrum, Kerstin Nagel-Wolfrum; Gene Repair of an Usher Syndrome Causing Mutation by Zinc-Finger Nuclease Mediated Homologous Recombination. Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 2012;53(7):4140-4146. doi: 10.1167/iovs.12-9812.
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Purpose. Human Usher syndrome (USH) is the most frequent cause of inherited deaf-blindness. It is clinically and genetically heterogeneous, assigned to three clinical types of which the most severe type is USH1. No effective treatment for the ophthalmic component of USH exists. Gene augmentation is an attractive strategy for hereditary retinal diseases. However, several USH genes, like USH1C, are expressed in various isoforms, hampering gene augmentation. As an alternative treatment strategy, we applied the zinc-finger nuclease (ZFN) technology for targeted gene repair of an USH1C, causing mutation by homologous recombination.
Methods. We designed ZFNs customized for the p.R31X nonsense mutation in Ush1c. We evaluated ZFNs for DNA cleavage capability and analyzed ZFNs biocompatibilities by XTT assays. We demonstrated ZFNs mediated gene repair on genomic level by digestion assays and DNA sequencing, and on protein level by indirect immunofluorescence and Western blot analyses.
Results. The specifically designed ZFNs did not show cytotoxic effects in a p.R31X cell line. We demonstrated that ZFN induced cleavage of their target sequence. We showed that simultaneous application of ZFN and rescue DNA induced gene repair of the disease-causing mutation on the genomic level, resulting in recovery of protein expression.
Conclusions. In our present study, we analyzed for the first time ZFN-activated gene repair of an USH gene. The data highlight the ability of ZFNs to induce targeted homologous recombination and mediate gene repair in USH. We provide further evidence that the ZFN technology holds great potential to recover disease-causing mutations in inherited retinal disorders.
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