Limb-girdle muscular dystrophy type 2D/R3 (LGMD2D/R3) is a progressive muscular dystrophy that manifests with muscle weakness, respiratory abnormalities, and in rare cases cardiomyopathy. LGMD2D/R3 is caused by mutations in the SGCA gene resulting in loss of protein and concomitant loss of some or all components of the dystrophin-associated glycoprotein complex. The sgca-null (sgca-/-) mouse recapitulates the clinical phenotype of patients with LGMD2D/R3, including dystrophic features such as muscle necrosis and fibrosis, elevated serum creatine kinase (CK), and reduction in the generation of absolute muscle force and locomotor activity. Thus, sgca-/- mice provide a relevant model to test the safety and efficacy of gene transfer. We designed a self-complementary AAVrh74 vector containing a codon-optimized full-length human SGCA (hSGCA) transgene driven by a muscle-specific promoter, shortened muscle creatine kinase (tMCK). In this report, we test the efficacy and safety of scAAVrh74.tMCK.hSGCA in sgca-/- mice using a dose-escalation design to evaluate a single systemic injection of 1.0 × 1012, 3.0 × 1012, and 6.0 × 1012 vg total dose compared with vehicle-treatment and wild-type mice. In sgca-/- mice, treatment with scAAVrh74.tMCK.hSGCA resulted in robust expression of α-sarcoglycan protein at the sarcolemma membrane in skeletal muscle at all doses tested. In addition, scAAVrh74.tMCK.hSGCA was effective in improving the histopathology of limb and diaphragm muscle of sgca-/- mice, as indicated by reductions in fibrosis, central nucleation, and normalization of myofiber size. These molecular changes were concomitant with significant increases in specific force generation in the diaphragm and tibialis anterior muscle, protection against eccentric force loss, and reduction in serum CK. Locomotor activity was improved at all doses of vector-treated compared with vehicle-treated sgca-/- mice. Lastly, vector toxicity was not detected in a serum chemistry panel and by gross necropsy. Collectively, these findings provide support for a systemic delivery of scAAVrh74.tMCK.hSGCA in a clinical setting for the treatment of LGMD2D/R3.
Keywords: LGMD; dose-escalation; gene therapy; limb-girdle muscular dystrophy; scAAVrh74.tMCK.hSGCA; α-sarcoglycan.