Front Neurosci. 2023 Mar 27;17:1119724. doi: 10.3389/fnins.2023.1119724. eCollection 2023.
INTRODUCTION: Therapies for Leber hereditary optic neuropathy (LHON), in common with all disorders caused by mutated mitochondrial DNA, are inadequate. We have developed two gene therapy strategies for the disease: mitochondrial-targeted and allotopic expressed and compared them in a mouse model of LHON.
METHODS: A LHON mouse model was generated by intravitreal injection of a mitochondrialtargeted Adeno-associated virus (AAV) carrying mutant human NADH dehydrogenase 4 gene (hND4/m.11778G>A) to induce retinal ganglion cell (RGC) degeneration and axon loss, the hallmark of the human disease. We then attempted to rescue those mice using a second intravitreal injection of either mitochondrial-targeted or allotopic expressed wildtype human ND4. The rescue of RGCs and their axons were assessed using serial pattern electroretinogram (PERG) and transmission electron microscopy.
RESULTS: Compared to non-rescued LHON controls where PERG amplitude was much reduced, both strategies significantly preserved PERG amplitude over 15 months. However, the rescue effect was more marked with mitochondrial-targeted therapy than with allotopic therapy (p = 0.0128). Post-mortem analysis showed that mitochondrial-targeted human ND4 better preserved small axons that are preferentially lost in human LHON.
CONCLUSIONS: These results in a pre-clinical mouse model of LHON suggest that mitochondrially-targeted AAV gene therapy, compared to allotopic AAV gene therapy, is more efficient in rescuing the LHON phenotype.