BEST1 Gene Therapy Corrects a Diffuse Retina-Wide Microdetachment Modulated by Light Exposure
Medicine and Health Sciences
Mutations in the BEST1 gene cause detachment of the retina and degeneration of photoreceptor (PR) cells due to a primary channelopathy in the neighboring retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) cells. The pathophysiology of the interaction between RPE and PR cells preceding the formation of retinal detachment remains not well-understood. Our studies of molecular pathology in the canine BEST1 disease model revealed retina-wide abnormalities at the RPE-PR interface associated with defects in the RPE microvillar ensheathment and a cone PR-associated insoluble interphotoreceptor matrix. In vivo imaging demonstrated a retina-wide RPE-PR microdetachment, which contracted with dark adaptation and expanded upon exposure to a moderate intensity of light. Subretinal BEST1 gene augmentation therapy using adeno-associated virus 2 reversed not only clinically detectable subretinal lesions but also the diffuse microdetachments. Immunohistochemical analyses showed correction of the structural alterations at the RPE-PR interface in areas with BEST1 transgene expression. Successful treatment effects were demonstrated in three different canine BEST1 genotypes with vector titers in the 0.1-to-5E11 vector genomes per mL range. Patients with biallelic BEST1 mutations exhibited large regions of retinal lamination defects, severe PR sensitivity loss, and slowing of the retinoid cycle. Human translation of canine BEST1 gene therapy success in reversal of macro- and microdetachments through restoration of cytoarchitecture at the RPE-PR interface has promise to result in improved visual function and prevent disease progression in patients affected with bestrophinopathies.