rAAV-compatible human mini promoters enhance transgene expression in rat retinal ganglion cells

Congratulations to Dr. William Hauswirth on the publication of “rAAV-compatible human mini promoters enhance transgene expression in rat retinal ganglion cells,” which appears in the February issue of Experimental Eye Research.


Recombinant adeno-associated viral vectors (rAAV) are the safest and most effective gene delivery platform to drive the treatment of many inherited eye disorders in well-characterized animal models. The use in rAAV of ubiquitous promoters derived from viral sequences such as CMV/CBA (chicken β-actin promoter with cytomegalovirus enhancer) can lead to unwanted side effects such as pro-inflammatory immune responses and retinal cytotoxicity, thus reducing therapy efficacy. Thus, an advance in gene therapy is the availability of small promoters, that potentiate and direct gene expression to the cell type of interest, with higher safety and efficacy. In this study, we used six human mini-promoters packaged in rAAV2 quadruple mutant (Y–F) to test for transduction of the rat retina after intravitreal injection. After four weeks, immunohistochemical analysis detected GFP-labeled cells in the ganglion cell layer (GCL) for all constructs tested. Among them, Ple25sh1, Ple25sh2 and Ple53 promoted a widespread reporter-transgene expression in the GCL, with an increased number of GFP-expressing retinal ganglion cells when compared with the CMV/CBA vector. Moreover, Ple53 provided the strongest levels of GFP fluorescence in both cell soma and axons of retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) without any detectable adverse effects in retina function. Remarkably, a nearly 50-fold reduction in the number of intravitreally injected vector particles containing Ple53 promoter, still attained levels of transgene expression similar to CMV/CBA. Thus, the tested MiniPs show great potential for protocols of retinal gene therapy in therapeutic applications for retinal degenerations, especially those involving RGC-related disorders such as glaucoma.