Background: Many genetically multi-modified donor lines for xenotransplantation have a background of domestic pigs with rapid body and organ growth. The intrinsic growth potential of porcine xeno-organs may impair their long-term function after orthotopic transplantation in non-human primate models. Since growth hormone is a major stimulator of postnatal growth, we deleted its receptor (GHR-KO) to reduce the size of donor pigs in one step.
Methods: Heart weight and proteome profile of myocardium were investigated in GHR-KO and control pigs. GHR-KO mutations were introduced using CRISPR/Cas9 in an α1,3-galactosyltransferase (GGTA1)-deficient background expressing the human cluster of differentiation (hCD46) and human thrombomodulin (hTHBD) to generate quadruple-modified (4GM) pigs.
Results: At age 6 months, GHR-KO pigs had a 61% reduced body weight and a 63% reduced heart weight compared with controls. The mean minimal diameter of cardiomyocytes was 28% reduced. A holistic proteome study of myocardium samples from the two groups did not reveal prominent differences. Two 4GM founder sows had low serum insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF1) levels (24 ± 1 ng/mL) and reached body weights of 70.3 and 73.4 kg at 9 months. Control pigs with IGF1 levels of 228 ± 24 ng/mL reached this weight range three months earlier. The 4GM sows showed normal sexual development and were mated with genetically multi-modified boars. Offspring revealed the expected Mendelian transmission of the genetic modifications and consistent expression of the transgenes.
Conclusion: GHR-KO donor pigs can be used at an age beyond the steepest phase of their growth curve, potentially reducing the problem of xeno-organ overgrowth in preclinical studies.
Keywords: gene editing; growth hormone receptor; organ growth; pig.
© 2020 The Authors. Xenotransplantation published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.