Recombinant AAV-Mediated <em>BEST1</em> Transfer to the Retinal Pigment Epithelium: Analysis of Serotype-Dependent Retinal Effects
canine multifocal retinopathy
Medicine and Health Sciences
Mutations in the BEST1 gene constitute an underlying cause of juvenile macular dystrophies, a group of retinal disorders commonly referred to as bestrophinopathies and usually diagnosed in early childhood or adolescence. The disease primarily affects macular and paramacular regions of the eye leading to major declines in central vision later in life. Currently, there is no cure or surgical management for BEST1-associated disorders. The recently characterized human disease counterpart, canine multifocal retinopathy (cmr), recapitulates a full spectrum of clinical and molecular features observed in human bestrophinopathies and offers a valuable model system for development and testing of therapeutic strategies. In this study, the specificity, efficiency and safety of rAAV-mediated transgene expression driven by the human VMD2 promoter were assessed in wild-type canine retinae. While the subretinal delivery of rAAV2/1 vector serotype was associated with cone damage in the retina when BEST1 and GFP were co-expressed, the rAAV2/2 vector serotype carrying either GFP reporter or BEST1 transgene under control of human VMD2 promoter was safe, and enabled specific transduction of the RPE cell monolayer that was stable for up to 6 months post injection. These encouraging studies with the rAAV2/2 vector lay the groundwork for development of gene augmentation therapy for human bestrophinopathies.