Objective: The aim of this study was to attain long-lasting alpha-sarcoglycan gene expression in limb-girdle muscular dystrophy, type 2D (LGMD2D) subjects mediated by adeno-associated virus (AAV) gene transfer under control of a muscle specific promoter (tMCK).
Methods: rAAV1.tMCK.hSGCA (3.25 × 10¹¹ vector genomes) was delivered to the extensor digitorum brevis muscle of 3 subjects with documented SGCA mutations via a double-blind, randomized, placebo controlled trial. Control sides received saline. The blind was not broken until the study was completed at 6 months and all results were reported to the oversight committee.
Results: Persistent alpha-sarcoglycan gene expression was achieved for 6 months in 2 of 3 LGMD2D subjects. Markers for muscle fiber transduction other than alpha-sarcoglycan included expression of major histocompatibility complex I, increase in muscle fiber size, and restoration of the full sarcoglycan complex. Mononuclear inflammatory cells recruited to the site of gene transfer appeared to undergo programmed cell death, demonstrated by terminal deoxynucleotide transferase-mediated deoxyuridine triphosphate nick-end labeling and caspase-3 staining. A patient failing gene transfer demonstrated an early rise in neutralizing antibody titers and T-cell immunity to AAV, validated by enzyme-linked immunospot on the second day after gene injection. This was in clear distinction to other participants with satisfactory gene expression.
Interpretation: The findings of this gene replacement study in LGMD2D subjects have important implications not previously demonstrated in muscular dystrophy. Long-term, sustainable gene expression of alpha-sarcoglycan was observed following gene transfer mediated by AAV. The merit of a muscle-specific tMCK promoter, not previously used in a clinical trial, was evident, and the potential for reversal of disease was displayed.