Adeno-associated virus (AAV) is well established as a vehicle for in vivo gene transfer into the mammalian retina. This virus is promising not only for gene therapy of retinal diseases, but also for in vivo functional analysis of retinal genes. Previous reports have shown that AAV can infect various cell types in the developing mouse retina. However, AAV tropism in the developing retina has not yet been examined in detail.
We subretinally delivered seven AAV serotypes (AAV2/1, 2/2, 2/5, 2/8, 2/9, 2/10, and 2/11) of AAV-CAG-mCherry into P0 mouse retinas, and quantitatively evaluated the tropisms of each serotype by its infecting degree in retinal cells. After subretinal injection of AAV into postnatal day 0 (P0) mouse retinas, various retinal cell types were efficiently transduced with different AAVs. Photoreceptor cells were efficiently transduced with AAV2/5. Retinal cells, except for bipolar and Müller glial cells, were efficiently transduced with AAV2/9. Horizontal and/or ganglion cells were efficiently transduced with AAV2/1, AAV2/2, AAV2/8, AAV2/9 and AAV2/10. To confirm the usefulness of AAV-mediated gene transfer into the P0 mouse retina, we performed AAV-mediated rescue of the Cone-rod homeobox gene knockout (Crx KO) mouse, which exhibits an outer segment formation defect, flat electroretinogram (ERG) responses, and photoreceptor degeneration. We injected an AAV expressing Crx under the control of the Crx 2kb promoter into the neonatal Crx KO retina. We showed that AAV mediated-Crx expression significantly decreased the abnormalities of the Crx KO retina.
In the current study, we report suitable AAV tropisms for delivery into the developing mouse retina. Using AAV2/5 in photoreceptor cells, we demonstrated the possibility of gene replacement for the developmental disorder and subsequent degeneration of retinal photoreceptors caused by the absence of Crx.