Purpose: To preserve photoreceptor cell structure and function in a rodent model of retinitis pigmentosa with P23H rhodopsin by selective inhibition of the mutant rhodopsin allele using a second generation antisense oligonucleotide (ASO).
Methods: Wild-type mice and rats were treated with ASO by intravitreal (IVT) injection and rhodopsin mRNA and protein expression were measured. Transgenic rats expressing the murine P23H rhodopsin gene (P23H transgenic rat Line 1) were administered either a mouse-specific P23H ASO or a control ASO. The contralateral eye was injected with PBS and used as a comparator control. Electroretinography (ERG) measurements and analyses of the retinal outer nuclear layer were conducted and correlated with rhodopsin mRNA levels.
Results: Rhodopsin mRNA and protein expression was reduced after a single ASO injection in wild-type mice with a rhodopsin-specific ASO. Transgenic rat eyes that express a murine P23H rhodopsin gene injected with a murine P23H ASO had a 181 ± 39% better maximum amplitude response (scotopic a-wave) as compared with contralateral PBS-injected eyes; the response in control ASO eyes was not significantly different from comparator contralateral eyes. Morphometric analysis of the outer nuclear layer showed a significantly thicker nuclear layer in eyes injected with murine P23H ASO (18%) versus contralateral PBS-injected eyes.
Conclusions: Allele-specific ASO-mediated knockdown of mutant P23H rhodopsin expression slowed the rate of photoreceptor degeneration and preserved the function of photoreceptor cells in eyes of the P23H rhodopsin transgenic rat. Our data indicate that ASO treatment is a potentially effective therapy for the treatment of retinitis pigmentosa.