The gRNA Vector Level Determines the Outcome of Systemic AAV CRISPR Therapy for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy

Hum Gene Ther. 2022 May;33(9-10):518-528. doi: 10.1089/hum.2021.130. Epub 2022 May 4.


Adeno-associated virus (AAV)-mediated clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR) editing holds promise to restore missing dystrophin in Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD). Intramuscular coinjection of CRISPR-associated protein 9 (Cas9) and guide RNA (gRNA) vectors resulted in robust dystrophin restoration in short-term studies in the mdx mouse model of DMD. Intriguingly, this strategy failed to yield efficient dystrophin rescue in muscle in a long-term (18-month) systemic injection study. In-depth analyses revealed a selective loss of the gRNA vector after long-term systemic, but not short-term local injection. To determine whether preferential gRNA vector depletion is due to the mode of delivery (local vs. systemic) or the duration of the study (short term vs. long term), we conducted a short-term systemic injection study. The gRNA (4e12 vg/mouse in the 1:1 group or 1.2e13 vg/mouse in the 3:1 group) and Cas9 (4e12 vg/mouse) vectors were coinjected intravenously into 4-week-old mdx mice. The ratio of the gRNA to Cas9 vector genome copy dropped from 1:1 and 3:1 at injection to 0.4:1 and 1:1 at harvest 3 months later, suggesting that the route of administration, rather than the experimental duration, determines preferential gRNA vector loss. Consistent with our long-term systemic injection study, the vector ratio did not influence Cas9 expression. However, the 3:1 group showed significantly higher dystrophin expression and genome editing, better myofiber size distribution, and a more pronounced improvement in muscle function and electrocardiography. Our data suggest that the gRNA vector dose determines the outcome of systemic AAV CRISPR therapy for DMD.

Keywords: AAV; CRISPR; Duchenne muscular dystrophy; gRNA.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • CRISPR-Cas Systems / genetics
  • Dependovirus / genetics
  • Dependovirus / metabolism
  • Dystrophin* / genetics
  • Dystrophin* / metabolism
  • Gene Editing / methods
  • Genetic Therapy / methods
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred mdx
  • Muscle, Skeletal / metabolism
  • Muscular Dystrophy, Duchenne* / genetics
  • Muscular Dystrophy, Duchenne* / therapy
  • RNA, Guide, Kinetoplastida / genetics
  • RNA, Guide, Kinetoplastida / metabolism


  • Dystrophin
  • RNA, Guide