Functional expression of Rab escort protein 1 following AAV2-mediated gene delivery in the retina of choroideremia mice and human cells ex vivo.
Tolmachova T., Tolmachov OE., Barnard AR., de Silva SR., Lipinski DM., Walker NJ., Maclaren RE., Seabra MC.
Choroideremia (CHM) is an X-linked retinal degeneration of photoreceptors, the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) and choroid caused by loss of function mutations in the CHM/REP1 gene that encodes Rab escort protein 1. As a slowly progressing monogenic retinal degeneration with a clearly identifiable phenotype and a reliable diagnosis, CHM is an ideal candidate for gene therapy. We developed a serotype 2 adeno-associated viral vector AAV2/2-CBA-REP1, which expresses REP1 under control of CMV-enhanced chicken β-actin promoter (CBA) augmented by a Woodchuck hepatitis virus post-transcriptional regulatory element. We show that the AAV2/2-CBA-REP1 vector provides strong and functional transgene expression in the D17 dog osteosarcoma cell line, CHM patient fibroblasts and CHM mouse RPE cells in vitro and in vivo. The ability to transduce human photoreceptors highly effectively with this expression cassette was confirmed in AAV2/2-CBA-GFP transduced human retinal explants ex vivo. Electroretinogram (ERG) analysis of AAV2/2-CBA-REP1 and AAV2/2-CBA-GFP-injected wild-type mouse eyes did not show toxic effects resulting from REP1 overexpression. Subretinal injections of AAV2/2-CBA-REP1 into CHM mouse retinas led to a significant increase in a- and b-wave of ERG responses in comparison to sham-injected eyes confirming that AAV2/2-CBA-REP1 is a promising vector suitable for choroideremia gene therapy in human clinical trials.