Gene replacement therapy provides benefit in an adult mouse model of Leigh syndrome

Brain. 2020 Jun 1;143(6):1686-1696. doi: 10.1093/brain/awaa105.


Mutations in nuclear-encoded mitochondrial genes are responsible for a broad spectrum of disorders among which Leigh syndrome is the most common in infancy. No effective therapies are available for this severe disease mainly because of the limited capabilities of the standard adeno-associated viral (AAV) vectors to transduce both peripheral organs and the CNS when injected systemically in adults. Here, we used the brain-penetrating AAV-PHP.B vector to reinstate gene expression in the Ndufs4 knockout mouse model of Leigh syndrome. Intravenous delivery of an AAV.PHP.B-Ndufs4 vector in 1-month-old knockout mice restored mitochondrial complex I activity in several organs including the CNS. This gene replacement strategy extended lifespan, rescued metabolic parameters, provided behavioural improvement, and corrected the pathological phenotype in the brain, retina, and heart of Ndufs4 knockout mice. These results provide a robust proof that gene therapy strategies targeting multiple organs can rescue fatal neurometabolic disorders with CNS involvement.

Keywords: AAV vector; gene therapy; mitochondria; neurometabolic disease.