Cas9 gene therapy for Angelman syndrome traps Ube3a-ATS long non-coding RNA

Nature. 2020 Nov;587(7833):281-284. doi: 10.1038/s41586-020-2835-2. Epub 2020 Oct 21.


Angelman syndrome (AS) is a severe neurodevelopmental disorder caused by a mutation or deletion of the maternally inherited UBE3A allele. In neurons, the paternally inherited UBE3A allele is silenced in cis by a long non-coding RNA called UBE3A-ATS. Here, as part of a systematic screen, we found that Cas9 can be used to activate ('unsilence') paternal Ube3a in cultured mouse and human neurons when targeted to Snord115 genes, which are small nucleolar RNAs that are clustered in the 3' region of Ube3a-ATS. A short Cas9 variant and guide RNA that target about 75 Snord115 genes were packaged into an adeno-associated virus and administered to a mouse model of AS during the embryonic and early postnatal stages, when the therapeutic benefit of restoring Ube3a is predicted to be greatest1,2. This early treatment unsilenced paternal Ube3a throughout the brain for at least 17 months and rescued anatomical and behavioural phenotypes in AS mice. Genomic integration of the adeno-associated virus vector into Cas9 target sites caused premature termination of Ube3a-ATS at the vector-derived polyA cassette, or when integrated in the reverse orientation, by transcriptional collision with the vector-derived Cas9 transcript. Our study shows that targeted genomic integration of a gene therapy vector can restore the function of paternally inherited UBE3A throughout life, providing a path towards a disease-modifying treatment for a syndromic neurodevelopmental disorder.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Angelman Syndrome / genetics*
  • Angelman Syndrome / therapy*
  • Animals
  • CRISPR-Associated Protein 9 / genetics
  • CRISPR-Associated Protein 9 / metabolism*
  • CRISPR-Cas Systems / genetics*
  • Dependovirus / genetics
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Female
  • Gene Editing*
  • Gene Silencing
  • Genetic Therapy / methods*
  • Genetic Vectors / genetics
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Nervous System / metabolism
  • Paternal Inheritance / genetics
  • Phenotype
  • RNA, Guide, Kinetoplastida / genetics
  • RNA, Long Noncoding / genetics*
  • Ubiquitin-Protein Ligases / genetics*


  • RNA, Guide
  • RNA, Long Noncoding
  • Ube3a protein, mouse
  • Ubiquitin-Protein Ligases
  • CRISPR-Associated Protein 9