Non-viral gene therapy for GDNF production in RCS rat: the crucial role of the plasmid dose

Gene Ther. 2012 Sep;19(9):886-98. doi: 10.1038/gt.2011.154. Epub 2011 Oct 13.


Glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF) is one of the candidate molecules among neurotrophic factors proposed for a potential treatment of retinitis pigmentosa (RP). It must be administered repeatedly or through sustained releasing systems to exert prolonged neuroprotective effects. In the dystrophic Royal College of Surgeon's (RCS) rat model of RP, we found that endogenous GDNF levels dropped during retinal degeneration time course, opening a therapeutic window for GDNF supplementation. We showed that after a single electrotransfer of 30 μg of GDNF-encoding plasmid in the rat ciliary muscle, GDNF was produced for at least 7 months. Morphometric, electroretinographic and optokinetic analyses highlighted that this continuous release of GDNF delayed photoreceptors (PRs) as well as retinal functions loss until at least 70 days of age in RCS rats. Unexpectedly, increasing the GDNF secretion level accelerated PR degeneration and the loss of electrophysiological responses. This is the first report: (i) demonstrating the efficacy of GDNF delivery through non-viral gene therapy in RP; (ii) establishing the efficacy of intravitreal administration of GDNF in RP associated with a mutation in the retinal pigment epithelium; and (iii) warning against potential toxic effects of GDNF within the eye/retina.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Ciliary Neurotrophic Factor / metabolism
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Electroporation*
  • Genetic Therapy / methods*
  • Glial Cell Line-Derived Neurotrophic Factor / genetics*
  • Glial Cell Line-Derived Neurotrophic Factor / metabolism
  • Photoreceptor Cells, Vertebrate / physiology
  • Plasmids
  • Rats
  • Retinal Degeneration / therapy
  • Retinitis Pigmentosa / therapy*


  • Ciliary Neurotrophic Factor
  • Glial Cell Line-Derived Neurotrophic Factor