Modeling and Correction of Protein Conformational Disease in iPSC-derived Neurons through Personalized Base Editing

bioRxiv [Preprint]. 2024 Jan 18:2024.01.17.576134. doi: 10.1101/2024.01.17.576134.


Altered protein conformation can cause incurable neurodegenerative disorders. Mutations in SERPINI1 , the gene encoding neuroserpin, alter protein conformation resulting in cytotoxic aggregation in neuronal endoplasmic reticulum. Aggregates cause oxidative stress impairing function, leading to neuronal death. Familial encephalopathy with neuroserpin inclusion bodies (FENIB) is a rare autosomal dominant progressive myoclonic epilepsy. Patients present with seizures and cognitive impairments that progress to dementia and premature death. We developed HEK293T and induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) models of FENIB, harboring the patient's pathogenic SERPINI1 variant or stably overexpressing mutant neuroserpin fused to GFP (MUT NS-GFP). FENIB cells form neuroserpin inclusions which increase in size and number. Here, we utilized a personalized adenine base editor (ABE)-mediated approach to efficiently correct the pathogenic variant and to restore neuronal dendritic morphology. ABE-treated MUT NS-GFP cells demonstrated reduced inclusion size and number. Using an inducible MUT NS-GFP neuron system, we identified early prevention of toxic protein expression allowed aggregate clearance, while late prevention halted neuronal impairments. To address several challenges for clinical applications of gene correction, we developed a neuron-specific engineered virus-like particle to optimize neuronal ABE delivery. Preventing mutant protein with altered conformation production improved toxic protein clearance. Our findings provide a targeted strategy and may treat FENIB and potentially other neurodegenerative diseases due to altered protein conformation such as Alzheimer's and Huntington's diseases.

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  • Preprint