Rett syndrome (RTT) is a debilitating neurological disorder caused by mutations in the gene encoding the transcription factor Methyl CpG Binding Protein 2 (MECP2). A distinct disorder results from MECP2 gene duplication, suggesting that therapeutic approaches must restore close to normal levels of MECP2. Here, we apply the approach of site-directed RNA editing to repair, at the mRNA level, a disease-causing guanosine to adenosine (G > A) mutation in the mouse MeCP2 DNA binding domain. To mediate repair, we exploit the catalytic domain of Adenosine Deaminase Acting on RNA (ADAR2) that deaminates A to inosine (I) residues that are subsequently translated as G. We fuse the ADAR2 domain, tagged with a nuclear localization signal, to an RNA binding peptide from bacteriophage lambda. In cultured neurons from mice that harbor an RTT patient G > A mutation and express engineered ADAR2, along with an appropriate RNA guide to target the enzyme, 72% of Mecp2 mRNA is repaired. Levels of MeCP2 protein are also increased significantly. Importantly, as in wild-type neurons, the repaired MeCP2 protein is enriched in heterochromatic foci, reflecting restoration of normal MeCP2 binding to methylated DNA. This successful use of site-directed RNA editing to repair an endogenous mRNA and restore protein function opens the door to future in vivo applications to treat RTT and other diseases.
Keywords: ADAR2; MeCP2; RNA editing; Rett syndrome.
Published under the PNAS license.