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PLoS One. 2016 Feb 16;11(2):e0148874. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0148874. eCollection 2016.

AAV-Mediated Clarin-1 Expression in the Mouse Retina: Implications for USH3A Gene Therapy.

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Ophthalmology, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL, United States of America.
CNR Neuroscience Institute, Pisa, Italy.
Cell and Matrix Biology, Institute of Zoology, Johannes Gutenberg-University of Mainz, Mainz, Germany.


Usher syndrome type III (USH3A) is an autosomal recessive disorder caused by mutations in clarin-1 (CLRN1) gene, leading to progressive retinal degeneration and sensorineural deafness. Efforts to develop therapies for preventing photoreceptor cell loss are hampered by the lack of a retinal phenotype in the existing USH3 mouse models and by conflicting reports regarding the endogenous retinal localization of clarin-1, a transmembrane protein of unknown function. In this study, we used an AAV-based approach to express CLRN1 in the mouse retina in order to determine the pattern of its subcellular localization in different cell types. We found that all major classes of retinal cells express AAV-delivered CLRN1 driven by the ubiquitous, constitutive small chicken β-actin promoter, which has important implications for the design of future USH3 gene therapy studies. Within photoreceptor cells, AAV-expressed CLRN1 is mainly localized at the inner segment region and outer plexiform layer, similar to the endogenous expression of other usher proteins. Subretinal delivery using a full strength viral titer led to significant loss of retinal function as evidenced by ERG analysis, suggesting that there is a critical limit for CLRN1 expression in photoreceptor cells. Taken together, these results suggest that CLRN1 expression is potentially supported by a variety of retinal cells, and the right combination of AAV vector dose, promoter, and delivery method needs to be selected to develop safe therapies for USH3 disorder.

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