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Front Mol Neurosci. 2017 May 23;10:142. doi: 10.3389/fnmol.2017.00142. eCollection 2017.

Long-Term Assessment of AAV-Mediated Zinc Finger Nuclease Expression in the Mouse Brain.

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Department of Neurology, University Medical Center GöttingenGöttingen, Germany.
Center for Nanoscale Microscopy and Molecular Physiology of the Brain at Department of Neurology, University Medical Center GöttingenGöttingen, Germany.


Gene editing tools like TALENs, ZFNs and Crispr/Cas now offer unprecedented opportunities for targeted genetic manipulations in virtually all species. Most of the recent research in this area has concentrated on manipulation of the genome in isolated cells, which then give rise to transgenic animals or modified stem cell lines. Much less is known about applicability of genetic scissors in terminally differentiated, non-dividing cells like neurons of the adult brain. We addressed this question by expression of a pair of ZFNs targeting the murine cathepsin D gene in CNS neurons by means of an optimized AAV viral vector. We show that ZFN expression resulted in substantial depletion of cathepsin D from neuronal lysosomes, demonstrating a robust gene deletion. Importantly, long-term ZFN expression in CNS neurons did not impair essential neuronal functionality and did not cause inflammation or neurodegeneration, suggesting that potent genetic scissors can be expressed safely in the mouse brain. This finding opens up new venues to create novel research models for neurodegenerative disorders.


adeno-associated virus; cathepsin D; genome editing; in vivo; zinc finger nuclease

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