Deficiency of arginase is associated with hyperargininemia, and prominent features include spastic diplegia/tetraplegia, clonus, and hyperreflexia; loss of ambulation, intellectual disability and progressive neurological decline are other signs. To gain greater insight into the unique neuromotor features, we performed gene expression profiling of the motor cortex of a murine model of the disorder. Coexpression network analysis suggested an abnormality with myelination, which was supported by limited existing human data. Utilizing electron microscopy, marked dysmyelination was detected in 2-week-old homozygous Arg1-KO mice. The corticospinal tract was found to be adversely affected, supporting dysmyelination as the cause of the unique neuromotor features and implicating oligodendrocyte impairment in a deficiency of hepatic Arg1. Following neonatal hepatic gene therapy to express Arg1, the subcortical white matter, pyramidal tract, and corticospinal tract all showed a remarkable recovery in terms of myelinated axon density and ultrastructural integrity with active wrapping of axons by nearby oligodendrocyte processes. These findings support the following conclusions: arginase deficiency is a leukodystrophy affecting the brain and spinal cord while sparing the peripheral nervous system, and neonatal AAV hepatic gene therapy can rescue the defects associated with myelinated axons, strongly implicating the functional recovery of oligodendrocytes after restoration of hepatic arginase activity.
Keywords: Gene therapy; Genetic diseases; Neurodevelopment; Neuroscience.