Ribozyme rescue of photoreceptor cells in a transgenic rat model of autosomal dominant retinitis pigmentosa

Nat Med. 1998 Aug;4(8):967-71. doi: 10.1038/nm0898-967.


Ribozymes, catalytic RNA molecules that cleave a complementary mRNA sequence, have potential as therapeutics for dominantly inherited disease. Twelve percent of American patients with the blinding disease autosomal dominant retinitis pigmentosa (ADRP) carry a substitution of histidine for proline at codon 23 (P23H) in their rhodopsin gene, resulting in photoreceptor cell death from the synthesis of the abnormal gene product. Ribozymes can discriminate and catalyze the in vitro destruction of P23H mutant mRNAs from a transgenic rat model of ADRP. Here, we demonstrate that in vivo expression of either a hammerhead or hairpin ribozyme in this rat model considerably slows the rate of photoreceptor degeneration for at least three months. Catalytically inactive control ribozymes had less effect on the retinal degeneration. Intracellular production of ribozymes in photoreceptors was achieved by transduction with a recombinant adeno-associated virus (rAAV) incorporating a rod opsin promoter. Ribozyme-directed cleavage of mutant mRNAs, therefore, may be an effective therapy for ADRP and also may be applicable to other inherited diseases.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Genetically Modified
  • Dependovirus
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Genes, Dominant
  • Genetic Therapy
  • Histidine
  • Photoreceptor Cells / pathology*
  • Point Mutation*
  • Proline
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic
  • RNA, Catalytic / biosynthesis
  • RNA, Catalytic / genetics
  • RNA, Catalytic / metabolism*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Retinal Rod Photoreceptor Cells / metabolism
  • Retinitis Pigmentosa / genetics*
  • Retinitis Pigmentosa / therapy*
  • Rhodopsin / genetics*
  • Rhodopsin / metabolism
  • Rod Opsins / genetics


  • RNA, Catalytic
  • Rod Opsins
  • Histidine
  • Rhodopsin
  • Proline