The discovery of novel intronic variants in the ABCA4 locus has contributed significantly to solving the missing heritability in Stargardt disease (STGD1). The increasing number of variants affecting pre-mRNA splicing makes ABCA4 a suitable candidate for antisense oligonucleotide (AON)-based splicing modulation therapies. In this study, AON-based splicing modulation was assessed for 15 recently described intronic variants (three near-exon and 12 deep-intronic variants). In total, 26 AONs were designed and tested in vitro using a midigene-based splice system. Overall, partial or complete splicing correction was observed for two variants causing exon elongation and all variants causing pseudoexon inclusion. Together, our results confirm the high potential of AONs for the development of future RNA therapies to correct splicing defects causing STGD1.
Keywords: ABCA4; RNA therapy; Stargardt disease; antisense oligonucleotide; deep-intronic; exon elongation; inherited retinal diseases; near-exon; pseudoexon; splicing modulation.