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Pathophysiology and gene therapy of the optic neuropathy in Wolfram Syndrome

Abstract : Wolfram Syndrome (WS; OMIM #222300, prevalence 1-9 / 1 000 000) has a juvenile onset and incorporates diabetes insipidus, diabetes mellitus, optic atrophy (OA), and deafness; leading to death in middle age. OA is its first neurological symptom, starting in adolescence and ending with blindness within 8 years. Unfortunately, a suitable WS mouse model comprising ophthalmologic symptoms has not yet been found, therefore the search for its treatment is delayed. In this thesis, I studied visual impairment in two WS mouse models along with a success of a gene therapy (GT) approach with the human WFS1 gene.Firstly, 3 and 6 months old Wfs1exon8del mice were examined for the visual acuity (VA) and contrast sensitivity via changes in the opto-motor reflex (OMR), the neural retinal function via electroretinogram (ERG), as well as the eye physiology via fundoscopy and optic coher-ence tomography (OCT). Also, the proportion of retinal ganglion cells (RGC) and the axonal loss at the age of 7 months were determined with anti-Brn3a immuno-labeling of retinal sections and electron microscopy of optic nerve (ON) sections, respectively. There was a progressive loss of VA and contrast sensitivity in Wfs1exon8del-/- mice, starting already at 1 month of age. It was accompanied by optic disc pallor, retinal thinning as well as axonal damage. However, there was no RGC loss and the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress in the retina was at a normal level. It suggested a presence of another cause for the reported degeneration in KO mice; in opposition to what was proposed in the literature. I brief, KO mice exhibit significant WS ophthalmic phenotype.Secondly, in search for another model, visual functions of Wfs1E864K mouse line were investigated. This line was originally a model of Wolfram-like Syndrome, characterized by dominant mutations in WFS1 leading to congenital progressive hearing impairment, diabetes mellitus and OA. Only homozygous mutants, however, showed expected visual impairment. Already at 1 month of age, Wfs1E864K/E864K mice had drastic loss of RGC function, albeit keeping the cell number at a normal level. This was accompanied by retinal thinning and a severe ON damage, as shown with OCT and fundoscopy, respectively. In contrast, the RGC function in Wfs1E864K/+ mice dropped slightly only at the age of 7 and 12 months, showing that the pathology of the E864K mutation-driven disease in mice is different than in humans. Therefore, Wfs1E864K/E864K mice, with their strong ophthalmic phenotype, could potentially serve as a model of the classical WS.Finally, to investigate future treatment options, 1 month old Wfs1exon8del+/+ (WT) and Wfs1exon8del-/- (KO) mice underwent a uni- and bi-lateral intravitreal gene therapy (GT) with AAV-2/2-CMV-WFS1. Exams at 3 and 6 months of age showed improved VA, as well as optic pallor and axonal damage rescue in KO mice. Also, no adverse effects related to either GT or sham injections were noted. Following this idea, the Wfs1E864K/E864K mice were also subjected to intravitreal GT, delivered at P14, but without success.In conclusion, Wfs1exon8del mouse line is a reliable model of WS, including the visual aspects. I propose the Wfs1E864K/E864K model as an alternative, especially to investigate Wfs1 function in the eye. Finally, the intravitreal AAV-driven GT with WFS1 has a potential to partially rescue the ophthalmic phenotype, paving the wave towards the treatment for WS patients.
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Jolanta Jagodzinska. Pathophysiology and gene therapy of the optic neuropathy in Wolfram Syndrome. Human health and pathology. Université Montpellier, 2016. English. ⟨NNT : 2016MONTT057⟩. ⟨tel-02000983⟩

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