Background: Transgenic sheep are currently the only large animal model of Huntington's disease expressing full-length mutant human huntingtin. These transgenic sheep provide an opportunity to test adeno associated virus (AAV) therapies directly targeting the huntingtin gene. A recent study demonstrated that self-complementary (sc) AAV with artificial miRNA against human huntingtin reduced mutant human huntingtin in caudate and putamen after a single injection near the internal capsule.
Objective: To identify an AAV serotype among AAVrh8, AAV9 and AAVrh10 with the highest neuronal uptake and distribution, with no obvious cell loss in the neostriatum of the sheep.
Methods: We tested AAVrh8, AAV9 and AAVrh10 by stereotactic direct unilateral injection into the neostriatum of sheep, near the internal capsule. Four weeks after administration, we examined the viral spread and neuronal uptake of each serotype of AAV containing GFP. We compared single stranded (ss) and scAAVs. Further, we measured the distribution of AAVrh8 and AAV9 to a variety of tissues outside the brain.
Results: Sc AAV9 had the best combination of neuronal uptake and distribution throughout the neostriatum. scAAVrh10 demonstrated good spread, but was not taken up by neurons. scAAVrh8 demonstrated good spread, but had less neuronal uptake than AAV9. Six hours after convection-enhanced administration to the neostriatum, both AAVrh8 and AAV9 viral genomes were detected in blood, saliva, urine, feces and wool. By four weeks, viral genomes were detected in wool only. Administration of AAVrh8, AAV9 and AAVrh10 was not associated with loss of neostriatal, medium spiny neuron number as measured by DARPP32 immunohistochemistry.
Conclusions: Altogether, we found scAAV9 had the best neuronal uptake and spread, showed no loss of neurons at one-month post-injection, and was not measurable in body fluids one month after injection. This information will guide future clinical experiments requiring brain injection of AAV for therapeutics for gene or miRNA deliveries in sheep transgenic for the human huntingtin gene.
Keywords: Huntington’s disease; adeno-associated virus; brain; sheep.