Author(s): Shahi PK, Hermans D, Sinha D, Brar S, Moulton H, Stulo S, Borys KD, Capowski E, Pillers DM, Gamm DM,Pattnaik BR. Gene Augmentation and Readthrough Rescue Channelopathy in an iPSC-RPE Model of Congenital Blindness. Am J Hum Genet. 2019 Jan 15. pii: S0002-9297(18)30502-0. doi: 10.1016/j.ajhg.2018.12.019. [Epub ahead of print]
Journal: American Journal Of Human Genetics, Jan 2019
Pathogenic variants of the KCNJ13 gene are known to cause Leber congenital amaurosis (LCA16), an inherited pediatric blindness. KCNJ13 encodes the Kir7.1 subunit that acts as a tetrameric, inwardly rectifying potassium ion channel in the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) to maintain ionic homeostasis and allow photoreceptors to encode visual information. We sought to determine whether genetic approaches might be effective in treating blindness arising from pathogenic variants in KCNJ13. We derived human induced pluripotent stem cell (hiPSC)-RPE cells from an individual carrying a homozygous c.158G>A (p.Trp53∗) pathogenic variant of KCNJ13. We performed biochemical and electrophysiology assays to confirm Kir7.1 function. We tested both small-molecule readthrough drug and gene-therapy approaches for this “disease-in-a-dish” approach. We found that the LCA16 hiPSC-RPE cells had normal morphology but did not express a functional Kir7.1 channel and were unable to demonstrate normal physiology. After readthrough drug treatment, the LCA16 hiPSC cells were hyperpolarized by 30 mV, and the Kir7.1 current was restored. Similarly, we rescued Kir7.1 channel function after lentiviral gene delivery to the hiPSC-RPE cells. In both approaches, Kir7.1 was expressed normally, and there was restoration of membrane potential and the Kir7.1 current. Loss-of-function variants of Kir7.1 are one cause of LCA. Using either readthrough therapy or gene augmentation, we rescued Kir7.1 channel function in iPSC-RPE cells derived from an affected individual. This supports the development of precision-medicine approaches for the treatment of clinical LCA16.