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Yonju Ha, Wei Liu, Hua Liu, Shuang Zhu, Fan Xia, Julia E. Gerson, Nisha A. Azhar, Ronald G. Tilton, Massoud Motamedi, Rakez Kayed, Wenbo Zhang; AAV2-mediated GRP78 Transfer Alleviates Retinal Neuronal Injury by Downregulating ER Stress and Tau Oligomer Formation. Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 2018;59(11):4670-4682. doi: 10.1167/iovs.18-24427.
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Retinal ganglion cell (RGC) death following axonal injury occurring in traumatic optic neuropathy (TON) causes irreversible vision loss. GRP78 is a molecular chaperone that enhances protein folding and controls activation of endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress pathways. This study determined whether adeno-associated virus (AAV)-mediated gene transfer of GRP78 protected RGCs from death in a mouse model of TON induced by optic nerve crush (ONC).
ONC was induced by a transient crush of optic nerve behind the eye globe. AAV was used to deliver genes into retina. Molecules in the ER stress branches, tau oligomers, and RGC injury were determined by immunohistochemistry or Western blot.
Among tested AAV serotypes, AAV2 was the most efficient for delivering genes to RGCs. Intravitreal delivery of AAV2-GRP78 markedly attenuated ER stress and RGC death 3 days after ONC, and significantly improved RGC survival and function 7 days after ONC. Protein aggregation is increased during ER stress and aggregated proteins such as tau oligomers are key players in neurodegenerative diseases. AAV2-GRP78 alleviated ONC-induced increases in tau phosphorylation and oligomerization. Furthermore, tau oligomers directly induced RGC death, and blocking tau oligomers with tau oligomer monoclonal antibody (TOMA) attenuated ONC-induced RGC loss.
These data indicate that the beneficial effect of AAV2-GRP78 is partially mediated by the reduction of misfolded tau, and provide compelling evidence that gene therapy with AAV2-GRP78 or immunotherapy with TOMA offers novel therapeutic approaches to alleviate RGC loss in TON.
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