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Sci Rep. 2019 Oct 31;9(1):15732. doi: 10.1038/s41598-019-52163-z.

Optimal Inhibition of Choroidal Neovascularization by scAAV2 with VMD2 Promoter-driven Active Rap1a in the RPE.

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John A Moran Eye Center, Salt Lake City, UT, 84132, USA.
Department of Internal Medicine, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT, 84132, USA.
Department of Ophthalmology, College of Medicine, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL, 32610, USA.
John A Moran Eye Center, Salt Lake City, UT, 84132, USA.


Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a multifactorial chronic disease that requires long term treatment. Gene therapy is being considered as a promising tool to treat AMD. We found that increased activation of Rap1a in the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) reduces oxidative signaling to maintain barrier integrity of the RPE and resist neural sensory retinal angiogenesis from choroidal endothelial cell invasion. To optimally deliver constitutively active Rap1a (CARap1a) into the RPE of wild type mice, self-complementary AAV2 (scAAV2) vectors driven by two different promoters, RPE65 or VMD2, were generated and tested for optimal active Rap1a expression and inhibition of choroidal neovascularization (CNV) induced by laser injury. scAAV2-VMD2, but not scAAV2-RPE65, specifically and efficiently transduced the RPE to increase active Rap1a protein in the RPE. Mice with increased Rap1a from the scAAV2-VMD2-CARap1a had a significant reduction in CNV compared to controls. Increased active Rap1a in the RPE in vivo or in vitro inhibited inflammatory and angiogenic signaling determined by decreased activation of NF-κB and expression of VEGF without causing increased cell death or autophagy measured by increased LCA3/B. Our study provides a potential future strategy to deliver active Rap1a to the RPE in order to protect against both atrophic and neovascular AMD.

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