Preferential expression of SCN1A in GABAergic neurons improves survival and epileptic phenotype in a mouse model of Dravet syndrome
Adenoviral vector
Dravet syndrome
Epileptic encephalopathy
GABAergic neuron
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Ricobaraza, A. (Ana); Buñuales, M. (María); Gonzalez-Aparicio, M. (Manuela); et al. "Preferential expression of SCN1A in GABAergic neurons improves survival and epileptic phenotype in a mouse model of Dravet syndrome". Journal of Molecular Medicine. 101, 2023, 1587 - 1601
The SCN1A gene encodes the alpha subunit of a voltage-gated sodium channel (Nav1.1), which is essential for the function of inhibitory neurons in the brain. Mutations in this gene cause severe encephalopathies such as Dravet syndrome (DS). Upregulation of SCN1A expression by different approaches has demonstrated promising therapeutic effects in preclinical models of DS. Limiting the effect to inhibitory neurons may contribute to the restoration of brain homeostasis, increasing the safety and efficacy of the treatment. In this work, we have evaluated different approaches to obtain preferential expression of the full SCN1A cDNA (6 Kb) in GABAergic neurons, using high-capacity adenoviral vectors (HC-AdV). In order to favour infection of these cells, we considered ErbB4 as a surface target. Incorporation of the EGF-like domain from neuregulin 1 alpha (NRG1α) in the fiber of adenovirus capsid allowed preferential infection in cells lines expressing ErbB4. However, it had no impact on the infectivity of the vector in primary cultures or in vivo. For transcriptional control of transgene expression, we developed a regulatory sequence (DP3V) based on the Distal-less homolog enhancer (Dlx), the vesicular GABA transporter (VGAT) promoter, and a portion of the SCN1A gene. The hybrid DP3V promoter allowed preferential expression of transgenes in GABAergic neurons both in vitro and in vivo. A new HC-AdV expressing SCN1A under the control of this promoter showed improved survival and amelioration of the epileptic phenotype in a DS mouse model. These results increase the repertoire of gene therapy vectors for the treatment of DS and indicate a new avenue for the refinement of gene supplementation in this disease. KEY MESSAGES: Adenoviral vectors can deliver the SCN1A cDNA and are amenable for targeting. An adenoviral vector displaying an ErbB4 ligand in the capsid does not target GABAergic neurons. A hybrid promoter allows preferential expression of transgenes in GABAergic neurons. Preferential expression of SCN1A in GABAergic cells is therapeutic in a Dravet syndrome model.

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