AAV-mediated AP-1 decoy oligonucleotide expression inhibits aortic elastolysis in a mouse model of marfan syndrome

Cardiovasc Res. 2021 Jan 20;cvab012. doi: 10.1093/cvr/cvab012. Online ahead of print.


Aims: Marfan syndrome is one of the most common inherited disorders of connective tissue caused by fibrillin-1 mutations, characterized by enhanced transcription factor AP-1 DNA binding activity and subsequently abnormally increased expression and activity of matrix-metalloproteinases (MMPs). We aimed to establish a novel adeno-associated virus (AAV)-based strategy for long-term expression of an AP-1 neutralising RNA hairpin (hp) decoy oligonucleotide (dON) in the aorta to prevent aortic elastolysis in a murine model of Marfan syndrome.

Methods and results: Using fibrillin-1 hypomorphic mice (mgR/mgR), aortic grafts from young (9 weeks old) donor mgR/mgR mice were transduced ex vivo with AAV vectors and implanted as infrarenal aortic interposition grafts in mgR/mgR mice. Grafts were explanted after 30 days. For in vitro studies isolated primary aortic smooth muscle cells from mgR/mgR mice were used. Elastica-van-Giesson staining visualized elastolysis, ROS production was assessed using DHE staining. RNA F.I.S.H. verified AP-1 hp dON generation in the ex vivo transduced aortic tissue. MMP expression and activity were assessed by western blotting and immunoprecipitation combined with zymography.Transduction resulted in stable therapeutic dON expression in endothelial and smooth muscle cells. MMP expression and activity, ROS formation as well as expression of monocyte chemoattractant protein-1 were significantly reduced. Monocyte graft infiltration declined and the integrity of the elastin architecture was maintained. RNAseq analyzis confirmed the beneficial effect of AP-1 neutralisation on the pro-inflammatory environment in smooth muscle cells.

Conclusions: This novel approach protects from deterioration of aortic stability by sustained delivery of nucleic acids-based therapeutics and further elucidated how to interfere with the mechanism of elastolysis.

Translational perspective: This study provides a novel single treatment option to achieve long-term expression of a transcription factor AP-1 neutralising decoy oligonucleotide in the aorta of mgR/mgR mice with the potential to prevent life-threatening elastolysis and aortic complications.

Keywords: AP-1; Marfan syndrome; aortic elastolysis; gene therapy; matrix-metalloproteinases.