Rapid and stable knockdown of an endogenous gene in retinal pigment epithelium

Hum Gene Ther. 2007 Oct;18(10):871-80. doi: 10.1089/hum.2007.065.


The selective silencing of target genes in specific cell types by RNA interference (RNAi) represents a powerful approach both to gene therapy of dominantly active mutant alleles, and to the investigation of normal gene function in animal models in vivo. We established a simple and versatile in vitro method for screening the efficacy of DNA-based short hairpin RNAs (shRNAs), and identified a highly effective shRNA targeting basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF), a gene thought to play important roles in endogenous neuroprotective responses in the rat retina. We used two viral vectors, based on lentivirus and adeno-associated virus (AAV), to deliver shRNAs and silence bFGF in retinal pigment epithelial cells in vivo. The AAV experiments made use of a "stabilized double-stranded" version of these vectors with rapid onset of gene expression. In the rat retinal pigment epithelium, shRNAs delivered by either vector reduced bFGF immunoreactivity to undetectable levels in transduced cells, whereas a nonfunctional control construct incorporating a two-base pair mutation had no measurable effect on bFGF expression. Silencing commenced within a few days after injection of virus and remained stable throughout the period of observation, as long as 60 days. Viral delivery of RNAi constructs offers a powerful and versatile approach for both gene therapy and the analysis of fundamental questions in retinal biology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Line
  • Dependovirus / genetics
  • Fibroblast Growth Factor 2 / genetics*
  • Fibroblast Growth Factor 2 / metabolism*
  • Gene Targeting
  • Genetic Therapy*
  • Genetic Vectors*
  • Lentivirus / genetics
  • Pigment Epithelium of Eye / cytology
  • Pigment Epithelium of Eye / metabolism*
  • RNA Interference
  • RNA, Small Interfering / genetics
  • RNA, Small Interfering / metabolism*
  • Rats


  • RNA, Small Interfering
  • Fibroblast Growth Factor 2