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Defining phenotype, tropism, and retinal gene therapy using adeno-associated viral vectors (AAVs) in new-born brown norway rats with a spontaneous mutation in CRB1

Publication year 2021
Published in International Journal of Molecular Sciences
Authors Nanda Boon, C Henrique Alves, Aat A Mulder, Charlotte A. Andriessen, Thilo M Buck, Peter M J Quinn, R.M. Vos, Abraham J Koster, Carolina R Jost, J. Wijnholds

Mutations in the Crumbs homologue 1 (CRB1) gene cause inherited retinal dystrophies, such as early-onset retinitis pigmentosa and Leber congenital amaurosis. A Brown Norway rat strain was reported with a spontaneous insertion-deletion (indel) mutation in exon 6 of Crb1. It has been reported that these Crb1 mutant rats show vascular abnormalities associated with retinal telang-iectasia and possess an early-onset retinal degenerative phenotype with outer limiting membrane breaks and focal loss of retinal lamination at 2 months of age. Here, we further characterized the morphological phenotype of new-born and adult Crb1 mutant rats in comparison with age-matched Brown Norway rats without a mutation in Crb1. A significantly decreased retinal function and visual acuity was observed in Crb1 mutant rats at 1 and 3 months of age, respectively. Moreover, in control rats, the subcellular localization of canonical CRB1 was observed at the subapical region in Müller glial cells while CRB2 was observed at the subapical region in both photoreceptors and Müller glial cells by immuno-electron microscopy. CRB1 localization was lost in the Crb1 mutant rats, whereas CRB2 was still observed. In addition, we determined the tropism of subretinal or intravitreally administered AAV5-, AAV9-or AAV6-variant ShH10Y445F vectors in new-born control and Crb1 mutant rat retinas. We showed that subretinal injection of AAV5 and AAV9 at postnatal days 5 (P5) or 8 (P8) predominantly infected the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) and photoreceptor cells; while intravitreal injection of ShH10Y445F at P5 or P8 resulted in efficient infection of mainly Müller glial cells. Using knowledge of the subcellular localization of CRB1 and the ability of ShH10Y445F to infect Müller glial cells, canonical hCRB1 and hCRB2 AAV-mediated gene therapy were explored in new-born Crb1 mutant rats. Enhanced retinal function after gene therapy delivery in the Crb1 rat was not observed. No timely rescue of the retinal phenotype was observed using retinal function and visual acuity, suggesting the need for earlier onset of expression of recombinant hCRB proteins in Müller glial cells to rescue the severe retinal phenotype in Crb1 mutant rats.

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