Triple trans-splicing adeno-associated virus vectors capable of transferring the coding sequence for full-length dystrophin protein into dystrophic mice.
Koo T., Popplewell L., Athanasopoulos T., Dickson G.
Recombinant adeno-associated virus (rAAV) vectors have been shown to permit very efficient widespread transgene expression in skeletal muscle after systemic delivery, making these increasingly attractive as vectors for Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) gene therapy. DMD is a severe muscle-wasting disorder caused by DMD gene mutations leading to complete loss of dystrophin protein. One of the major issues associated with delivery of the DMD gene, as a therapeutic approach for DMD, is its large open reading frame (ORF; 11.1 kb). A series of truncated microdystrophin cDNAs (delivered via a single AAV) and minidystrophin cDNAs (delivered via dual-AAV trans-spliced/overlapping reconstitution) have thus been extensively tested in DMD animal models. However, critical rod and hinge domains of dystrophin required for interaction with components of the dystrophin-associated protein complex, such as neuronal nitric oxide synthase, syntrophin, and dystrobrevin, are missing; these dystrophin domains may still need to be incorporated to increase dystrophin functionality and stabilize membrane rigidity. Full-length DMD gene delivery using AAV vectors remains elusive because of the limited single-AAV packaging capacity (4.7 kb). Here we developed a novel method for the delivery of the full-length DMD coding sequence to skeletal muscles in dystrophic mdx mice using a triple-AAV trans-splicing vector system. We report for the first time that three independent AAV vectors carrying "in tandem" sequential exonic parts of the human DMD coding sequence enable the expression of the full-length protein as a result of trans-splicing events cojoining three vectors via their inverted terminal repeat sequences. This method of triple-AAV-mediated trans-splicing could be applicable to the delivery of any large therapeutic gene (≥11 kb ORF) into postmitotic tissues (muscles or neurons) for the treatment of various inherited metabolic and genetic diseases.