Long-term rescue of cone photoreceptor degeneration in retinitis pigmentosa 2 (RP2)-knockout mice by gene replacement therapy. uri icon


  • Retinal neurodegenerative diseases are especially attractive targets for gene replacement therapy, which appears to be clinically effective for several monogenic diseases. X-linked forms of retinitis pigmentosa (XLRP) are relatively severe blinding disorders, resulting from progressive photoreceptor dysfunction primarily caused by mutations in RPGR or RP2 gene. With a goal to develop gene therapy for the XLRP-RP2 disease, we first performed detailed characterization of the Rp2-knockout (Rp2-KO) mice and observed early-onset cone dysfunction, which was followed by progressive cone degeneration, mimicking cone vision impairment in XLRP patients. The mice also exhibited distinct and significantly delayed falling phase of photopic b-wave of electroretinogram (ERG). Concurrently, we generated a self-complementary adeno-associated viral (AAV) vector carrying human RP2-coding sequence and demonstrated its ability to mediate stable RP2 protein expression in mouse photoreceptors. A long-term efficacy study was then conducted in Rp2-KO mice following AAV-RP2 vector administration. Preservation of cone function was achieved with a wide dose range over 18-month duration, as evidenced by photopic ERG and optomotor tests. The slower b-wave kinetics was also completely restored. Morphologically, the treatment preserved cone viability, corrected mis-trafficking of M-cone opsin and restored cone PDE6 expression. The therapeutic effect was achieved even in mice that received treatment at an advanced disease stage. The highest AAV-RP2 dose group demonstrated retinal toxicity, highlighting the importance of careful vector dosing in designing future human trials. The wide range of effective dose, a broad treatment window and long-lasting therapeutic effects should make the RP2 gene therapy attractive for clinical development.

publication date

  • November 15, 2015