Schiza N, Georgiou E, Kagiava A, Médard JJ, Richter J, Tryfonos C, Sargiannidou I, Heslegrave AJ, Rossor AM, Zetterberg H, Reilly MM, Christodoulou C, Chrast R, Kleopa KA. Gene replacement therapy in a model of Charcot-Marie-Tooth 4C neuropathy. Brain. 2019 May 1;142(5):1227-1241.
Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease type 4C is the most common recessively inherited demyelinating neuropathy that results from loss of function mutations in the SH3TC2 gene. Sh3tc2-/- mice represent a well characterized disease model developing early onset progressive peripheral neuropathy with hypo- and demyelination, slowing of nerve conduction velocities and disturbed nodal architecture. The aim of this project was to develop a gene replacement therapy for treating Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease type 4C to rescue the phenotype of the Sh3tc2-/- mouse model. We generated a lentiviral vector LV-Mpz.SH3TC2.myc to drive expression of the human SH3TC2 cDNA under the control of the Mpz promoter specifically in myelinating Schwann cells. The vector was delivered into 3-week-old Sh3tc2-/- mice by lumbar intrathecal injection and gene expression was assessed 4-8 weeks after injection. Immunofluorescence analysis showed presence of myc-tagged human SH3TC2 in sciatic nerves and lumbar roots in the perinuclear cytoplasm of a subset of Schwann cells, in a dotted pattern co-localizing with physiologically interacting protein Rab11. Quantitative PCR analysis confirmed SH3TC2 mRNA expression in different peripheral nervous system tissues. A treatment trial was initiated in 3 weeks old randomized Sh3tc2-/- littermate mice which received either the full or mock (LV-Mpz.Egfp) vector. Behavioural analysis 8 weeks after injection showed improved motor performance in rotarod and foot grip tests in treated Sh3tc2-/- mice compared to mock vector-treated animals. Moreover, motor nerve conduction velocities were increased in treated Sh3tc2-/- mice. On a structural level, morphological analysis revealed significant improvement in g-ratios, myelin thickness, and ratios of demyelinated fibres in lumbar roots and sciatic nerves of treated Sh3tc2-/- mice. Finally, treated mice also showed improved nodal molecular architecture and reduction of blood neurofilament light levels, a clinically relevant biomarker for axonal injury/degeneration. This study provides a proof of principle for viral gene replacement therapy targeted to Schwann cells to treat Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease type 4C and potentially other similar demyelinating inherited neuropathies.