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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. Published by Oxford University Press 2015. This work is written by (a) US Government employee(s) and is in the public domain in the US.


Suddhasil Mookherjee, Suja Hiriyanna, Kayleigh Kaneshiro, Linjing Li, Yichao Li, Wei Li, Haohua Qian, Tiansen Li, Hemant Khanna, Peter Colosi, Anand Swaroop, Zhijian Wu. Long-term rescue of cone photoreceptor degeneration in retinitis pigmentosa 2 (RP2)-knockout mice by gene replacement therapy. Human molecular genetics. 2015 Nov 15;24(22):6446-58

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PMID: 26358772

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