Peripheral Gene Therapeutic Rescue of an Olfactory Ciliopathy Restores Sensory Input, Axonal Pathfinding, and Odor-Guided Behavior

J Neurosci. 2018 Aug 22;38(34):7462-7475. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0084-18.2018. Epub 2018 Jul 30.


Cilia of olfactory sensory neurons (OSNs) are the primary site of odor binding; hence, their loss results in anosmia, a clinical manifestation of pleiotropic ciliopathies for which there are no curative therapies. We used OSN-specific Ift88 knock-out mice (Ift88osnKO) of both sexes to examine the mechanisms of ciliopathy-induced olfactory dysfunction and the potential for gene replacement to rescue odorant detection, restore olfactory circuitry, and restore odor-guided behaviors. Loss of OSN cilia in Ift88osnKO mice resulted in substantially reduced odor detection and odor-driven synaptic activity in the olfactory bulb (OB). Defects in OSN axon targeting to the OB were also observed in parallel with aberrant odor-guided behavior. Intranasal gene delivery of wild-type IFT88 to Ift88osnKO mice rescued OSN ciliation and peripheral olfactory function. Importantly, this recovery of sensory input in a limited number of mature OSNs was sufficient to restore axonal targeting in the OB of juvenile mice, and with delayed onset in adult mice. In addition, restoration of sensory input re-established course odor-guided behaviors. These findings highlight the spare capacity of the olfactory epithelium and the plasticity of primary synaptic input into the central olfactory system. The restoration of peripheral and central neuronal function supports the potential for treatment of ciliopathy-related anosmia using gene therapy.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT Ciliopathies, for which there are no curative therapies, are genetic disorders that alter cilia morphology and/or function in numerous tissue types, including the olfactory system, leading to sensory dysfunction. We show that in vivo intranasal gene delivery restores peripheral olfactory function in a ciliopathy mouse model, including axonal targeting in the juvenile and adult olfactory bulb. Gene therapy also demonstrated restoration of olfactory perception by rescuing odor-guided behaviors. Understanding the therapeutic window and viability for gene therapy to restore odor detection and perception may facilitate translation of therapies to ciliopathy patients with olfactory dysfunctions.

Keywords: axon wiring; behavior; cilia; ciliopathies; olfactory bulb; olfactory sensory neuron.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adenoviridae
  • Administration, Intranasal
  • Age Factors
  • Animals
  • Axons / physiology
  • Axons / ultrastructure
  • Cilia / ultrastructure
  • Ciliopathies / therapy*
  • Female
  • Genes, Reporter
  • Genetic Therapy*
  • Genetic Vectors / administration & dosage
  • Male
  • Maze Learning
  • Mice
  • Mice, 129 Strain
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Neurologic Mutants
  • Odorants
  • Olfaction Disorders / therapy*
  • Olfactory Bulb / physiopathology
  • Olfactory Mucosa / pathology
  • Olfactory Perception / physiology
  • Olfactory Receptor Neurons / physiology*
  • Olfactory Receptor Neurons / ultrastructure
  • Tumor Suppressor Proteins / deficiency
  • Tumor Suppressor Proteins / genetics
  • Tumor Suppressor Proteins / physiology
  • Tumor Suppressor Proteins / therapeutic use*


  • Tg737Rpw protein, mouse
  • Tumor Suppressor Proteins