First published September 26, 2019 - More info
Gene therapy approaches are being deployed to treat recessive genetic disorders by restoring the expression of mutated genes. However, the feasibility of these approaches for dominantly-inherited diseases—where treatment may require reduction in the expression of a toxic mutant protein resulting from a gain-of-function (GoF) allele—is unclear. Here we show the efficacy of allele-specific RNAi as a potential therapeutic for Charcot-Marie-Tooth type 2D (CMT2D), caused by dominant mutations in glycyl tRNA-synthetase (GARS). A de novo mutation in GARS was identified in a patient with a severe peripheral neuropathy, and a mouse model precisely recreating the mutation was produced. These mice developed a neuropathy by 3-4 weeks-of-age, validating the pathogenicity of the mutation. RNAi sequences targeting mutant GARS mRNA, but not wild-type, were optimized and then packaged into AAV9 for in vivo delivery. This almost completely prevented the neuropathy in mice treated at birth. Delaying treatment until after disease onset showed modest benefit, though this effect decreased the longer treatment was delayed. These outcomes were reproduced in a second mouse model of CMT2D using a vector specifically targeting that allele. The effects were dose dependent, and persisted for at least one year. Our findings demonstrate the feasibility of AAV9-mediated allele-specific knockdown and provide proof-of-concept for gene therapy approaches for dominant neuromuscular diseases.