Enhanced exon-skipping induced by U7 snRNA carrying a splicing silencer sequence: Promising tool for DMD therapy.
Goyenvalle A., Babbs A., van Ommen G-JB., Garcia L., Davies KE.
Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is a fatal muscle wasting disorder caused by mutations in the dystrophin gene. In most cases, the open-reading frame is disrupted which results in the absence of functional protein. Antisense-mediated exon skipping is one of the most promising approaches for the treatment of DMD and has recently been shown to correct the reading frame and restore dystrophin expression in vitro and in vivo. Specific exon skipping can be achieved using synthetic oligonucleotides or viral vectors encoding modified small nuclear RNAs (snRNAs), by masking important splicing sites. In this study, we demonstrate that enhanced exon skipping can be induced by a U7 snRNA carrying binding sites for the heterogeneous ribonucleoprotein A1 (hnRNPA1). In DMD patient cells, bifunctional U7 snRNAs harboring silencer motifs induce complete skipping of exon 51, and thus restore dystrophin expression to near wild-type levels. Furthermore, we show the efficacy of these constructs in vivo in transgenic mice carrying the entire human DMD locus after intramuscular injection of adeno-associated virus (AAV) vectors encoding the bifunctional U7 snRNA. These new constructs are very promising for the optimization of therapeutic exon skipping for DMD, but also offer powerful and versatile tools to modulate pre-mRNA splicing in a wide range of applications.