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C. Kostic, A.-P. Bemelmans, S. Crippa, M. Samardzija, V. Pignat, M. Tekaya, D. Wanner, A. Wenzel, Y. Arsenijevic; Increased Therapeutic Window for the R91W Mutant Form of Rpe65 Compared to Rpe65 Null Background. Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 2009;50(13):1743.
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Given the advances of gene therapy studies to cure RPE65-derived Leber Congenital Amaurosis (LCA) (clinical trials phase I) and the heterogeneity of the targeted patients both genetically and phenotypically, it is of prime importance to examine the rescue efficiency of gene transfer in different mutant contexts. Indeed, half of these mutations are missense mutations, leading to potential residual RPE65 activity. Consequently, we wanted to evaluate the effect on retinal activity and cone survival of lentivirus-mediated gene therapy in the R91W knock-in mouse model expressing the mutant Rpe65R91W gene (Samardzija et al. 2008), a mutation found in LCA patients. Notably we investigated whether if the therapeutic window is prolonged in comparison to null mutations.
An HIV-1-derived lentiviral vector (LV) expressing either the GFP or the mouse Rpe65 cDNA under the control of a 0.8 kb fragment of the human Rpe65 promoter (R0.8) was produced by transient transfection of 293T cells. LV-R0.8-RPE65 or GFP was injected into 5-days-old (P5) or 1 month-old R91W mice. Functional rescue was assessed by ERG (1 and 4 months post-injection) and pupillary light response (PLR) recordings and cone survival by histological analysis.
Increased light sensitivity was detected by scotopic ERG in animals injected with LV-R0.8-RPE65 at both P5 and 1 month compared to GFP-treated animals or untreated mice. PLR was also improved in some eyes and histological analysis of cone markers showed that the density of cones reached the wild type level in the region of wt RPE65 delivery after treatment at P5. However, the rescue effect of the injection at 1 month was limited and attained 60% of the wild type level, but still more cones were observed in the treated area than in 1 month-old untreated Rpe65R91W mice.
We were able to show that lentivirus-mediated Rpe65 gene transfer not only increases retinal activity of the Rpe65R91W mouse and survival of cones after treatment at P5 but also after treatment at 1 month. However even if the treatment at 1 month is more limited (60% of the wild type level) than treatment at P5, the amount of cone markers is increased compared to the proportion found at 1 month of age in untreated animals. This results contrast with the lack of cone rescue by treatment at 1 month of age in Rpe65-/- (Bemelmans et al, 2006). Thus patient suffering from R91W mutation might benefit from a prolonged therapeutic window.
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