Centre for Eye Research Australia (CERA) - Research Publications
Now showing items 1-12 of 40
Engineering domain-inlaid SaCas9 adenine base editors with reduced RNA off-targets and increased on-target DNA editing
(NATURE RESEARCH, 2020-09-25)
Precision genome engineering has dramatically advanced with the development of CRISPR/Cas base editing systems that include cytosine base editors and adenine base editors (ABEs). Herein, we compare the editing profile of circularly permuted and domain-inlaid Cas9 base editors, and find that on-target editing is largely maintained following their intradomain insertion, but that structural permutation of the ABE can affect differing RNA off-target events. With this insight, structure-guided design was used to engineer an SaCas9 ABE variant (microABE I744) that has dramatically improved on-target editing efficiency and a reduced RNA-off target footprint compared to current N-terminal linked SaCas9 ABE variants. This represents one of the smallest AAV-deliverable Cas9-ABEs available, which has been optimized for robust on-target activity and RNA-fidelity based upon its stereochemistry.
A Simple Differentiation Protocol for Generation of Induced Pluripotent Stem Cell-Derived Basal Forebrain-Like Cholinergic Neurons for Alzheimer's Disease and Frontotemporal Dementia Disease Modeling
The study of neurodegenerative diseases using pluripotent stem cells requires new methods to assess neurodevelopment and neurodegeneration of specific neuronal subtypes. The cholinergic system, characterized by its use of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, is one of the first to degenerate in Alzheimer's disease and is also affected in frontotemporal dementia. We developed a differentiation protocol to generate basal forebrain-like cholinergic neurons (BFCNs) from induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) aided by the use of small molecule inhibitors and growth factors. Ten iPSC lines were successfully differentiated into BFCNs using this protocol. The neuronal cultures were characterised through RNA and protein expression, and functional analysis of neurons was confirmed by whole-cell patch clamp. We have developed a reliable protocol using only small molecule inhibitors and growth factors, while avoiding transfection or cell sorting methods, to achieve a BFCN culture that expresses the characteristic markers of cholinergic neurons.
Comparison of CRISPR/Cas Endonucleases forin vivoRetinal Gene Editing
(FRONTIERS MEDIA SA, 2020-09-10)
CRISPR/Cas has opened the prospect of direct gene correction therapy for some inherited retinal diseases. Previous work has demonstrated the utility of adeno-associated virus (AAV) mediated delivery to retinal cells in vivo; however, with the expanding repertoire of CRISPR/Cas endonucleases, it is not clear which of these are most efficacious for retinal editing in vivo. We sought to compare CRISPR/Cas endonuclease activity using both single and dual AAV delivery strategies for gene editing in retinal cells. Plasmids of a dual vector system with SpCas9, SaCas9, Cas12a, CjCas9 and a sgRNA targeting YFP, as well as a single vector system with SaCas9/YFP sgRNA were generated and validated in YFP-expressing HEK293A cell by flow cytometry and the T7E1 assay. Paired CRISPR/Cas endonuclease and its best performing sgRNA was then packaged into an AAV2 capsid derivative, AAV7m8, and injected intravitreally into CMV-Cre:Rosa26-YFP mice. SpCas9 and Cas12a achieved better knockout efficiency than SaCas9 and CjCas9. Moreover, no significant difference in YFP gene editing was found between single and dual CRISPR/SaCas9 vector systems. With a marked reduction of YFP-positive retinal cells, AAV7m8 delivered SpCas9 was found to have the highest knockout efficacy among all investigated endonucleases. We demonstrate that the AAV7m8-mediated delivery of CRISPR/SpCas9 construct achieves the most efficient gene modification in neurosensory retinal cells in vivo.
Human fibroblast and stem cell resource from the Dominantly Inherited Alzheimer Network
BACKGROUND: Mutations in amyloid precursor protein (APP), presenilin 1 (PSEN1) and presenilin 2 (PSEN2) cause autosomal dominant forms of Alzheimer disease (ADAD). More than 280 pathogenic mutations have been reported in APP, PSEN1, and PSEN2. However, understanding of the basic biological mechanisms that drive the disease are limited. The Dominantly Inherited Alzheimer Network (DIAN) is an international observational study of APP, PSEN1, and PSEN2 mutation carriers with the goal of determining the sequence of changes in presymptomatic mutation carriers who are destined to develop Alzheimer disease. RESULTS: We generated a library of 98 dermal fibroblast lines from 42 ADAD families enrolled in DIAN. We have reprogrammed a subset of the DIAN fibroblast lines into patient-specific induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) lines. These cells were thoroughly characterized for pluripotency markers. CONCLUSIONS: This library represents a comprehensive resource that can be used for disease modeling and the development of novel therapeutics.
IMI - Myopia Genetics Report
(ASSOC RESEARCH VISION OPHTHALMOLOGY INC, 2019-02-01)
The knowledge on the genetic background of refractive error and myopia has expanded dramatically in the past few years. This white paper aims to provide a concise summary of current genetic findings and defines the direction where development is needed. We performed an extensive literature search and conducted informal discussions with key stakeholders. Specific topics reviewed included common refractive error, any and high myopia, and myopia related to syndromes. To date, almost 200 genetic loci have been identified for refractive error and myopia, and risk variants mostly carry low risk but are highly prevalent in the general population. Several genes for secondary syndromic myopia overlap with those for common myopia. Polygenic risk scores show overrepresentation of high myopia in the higher deciles of risk. Annotated genes have a wide variety of functions, and all retinal layers appear to be sites of expression. The current genetic findings offer a world of new molecules involved in myopiagenesis. As the missing heritability is still large, further genetic advances are needed. This Committee recommends expanding large-scale, in-depth genetic studies using complementary big data analytics, consideration of gene-environment effects by thorough measurement of environmental exposures, and focus on subgroups with extreme phenotypes and high familial occurrence. Functional characterization of associated variants is simultaneously needed to bridge the knowledge gap between sequence variance and consequence for eye growth.
Genome-wide association studies for diabetic macular edema and proliferative diabetic retinopathy
BACKGROUND: Diabetic macular edema (DME) and proliferative diabetic retinopathy (PDR) are sight-threatening complications of diabetes mellitus and leading causes of adult-onset blindness worldwide. Genetic risk factors for diabetic retinopathy (DR) have been described previously, but have been difficult to replicate between studies, which have often used composite phenotypes and been conducted in different populations. This study aims to identify genetic risk factors for DME and PDR as separate complications in Australians of European descent with type 2 diabetes. METHODS: Caucasian Australians with type 2 diabetes were evaluated in a genome-wide association study (GWAS) to compare 270 DME cases and 176 PDR cases with 435 non-retinopathy controls. All participants were genotyped by SNP array and after data cleaning, cases were compared to controls using logistic regression adjusting for relevant covariates. RESULTS: The top ranked SNP for DME was rs1990145 (p = 4.10 × 10- 6, OR = 2.02 95%CI [1.50, 2.72]) on chromosome 2. The top-ranked SNP for PDR was rs918519 (p = 3.87 × 10- 6, OR = 0.35 95%CI [0.22, 0.54]) on chromosome 5. A trend towards association was also detected at two SNPs reported in the only other reported GWAS of DR in Caucasians; rs12267418 near MALRD1 (p = 0.008) in the DME cohort and rs16999051 in the diabetes gene PCSK2 (p = 0.007) in the PDR cohort. CONCLUSION: This study has identified loci of interest for DME and PDR, two common ocular complications of diabetes. These findings require replication in other Caucasian cohorts with type 2 diabetes and larger cohorts will be required to identify genetic loci with statistical confidence. There is considerable overlap in the patient cohorts with each retinopathy subtype, complicating the search for genes that contribute to PDR and DME biology.
Population genomic screening of all young adults in a health-care system: a cost-effectiveness analysis
(NATURE PUBLISHING GROUP, 2019-09-01)
PURPOSE: To consider the impact and cost-effectiveness of offering preventive population genomic screening to all young adults in a single-payer health-care system. METHODS: We modeled screening of 2,688,192 individuals, all adults aged 18-25 years in Australia, for pathogenic variants in BRCA1/BRCA2/MLH1/MSH2 genes, and carrier screening for cystic fibrosis (CF), spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), and fragile X syndrome (FXS), at 71% testing uptake using per-test costs ranging from AUD$200 to $1200 (~USD$140 to $850). Investment costs included genetic counseling, surveillance, and interventions (reimbursed only) for at-risk individuals/couples. Cost-effectiveness was defined below AUD$50,000/DALY (disability-adjusted life year) prevented, using an incremental cost-effectiveness ratio (ICER), compared with current targeted testing. Outcomes were cancer incidence/mortality, disease cases, and treatment costs reduced. RESULTS: Population screening would reduce variant-attributable cancers by 28.8%, cancer deaths by 31.2%, and CF/SMA/FXS cases by 24.8%, compared with targeted testing. Assuming AUD$400 per test, investment required would be between 4 and 5 times higher than current expenditure. However, screening would lead to substantial savings in medical costs and DALYs prevented, at a highly cost-effective ICER of AUD$4038/DALY. At AUD$200 per test, screening would approach cost-saving for the health system (ICER = AUD$22/DALY). CONCLUSION: Preventive genomic screening in early adulthood would be highly cost-effective in a single-payer health-care system, but ethical issues must be considered.
A Simple Cloning-free Method to Efficiently Induce Gene Expression Using CRISPR/Cas9
(CELL PRESS, 2019-03-01)
Gain-of-function studies often require the tedious cloning of transgene cDNA into vectors for overexpression beyond the physiological expression levels. The rapid development of CRISPR/Cas technology presents promising opportunities to address these issues. Here, we report a simple, cloning-free method to induce gene expression at an endogenous locus using CRISPR/Cas9 activators. Our strategy utilizes synthesized sgRNA expression cassettes to direct a nuclease-null Cas9 complex fused with transcriptional activators (VP64, p65, and Rta) for site-specific induction of endogenous genes. This strategy allows rapid initiation of gain-of-function studies in the same day. Using this approach, we tested two CRISPR activation systems, dSpCas9VPR and dSaCas9VPR, for induction of multiple genes in human and rat cells. Our results showed that both CRISPR activators allow efficient induction of six different neural development genes (CRX, RORB, RAX, OTX2, ASCL1, and NEUROD1) in human cells, whereas the rat cells exhibit more variable and less-efficient levels of gene induction, as observed in three different genes (Ascl1, Neurod1, Nrl). Altogether, this study provides a simple method to efficiently activate endogenous gene expression using CRISPR/Cas9 activators, which can be applied as a rapid workflow to initiate gain-of-function studies for a range of molecular- and cell-biology disciplines.
Potentials of Cellular Reprogramming as a Novel Strategy for Neuroregeneration
(FRONTIERS MEDIA SA, 2018-11-30)
Cellular reprogramming technology holds great potential for tissue repair and regeneration to replace cells that are lost due to diseases or injuries. In addition to the landmark discovery of induced pluripotent stem cells, advances in cellular reprogramming allow the direct lineage conversion of one somatic cell type to another using defined transcription factors. This direct reprogramming technology represents a rapid way to generate target cells in the laboratory, which can be used for transplantation and studies of biology and diseases. More importantly, recent work has demonstrated the exciting application of direct reprogramming to stimulate regeneration in vivo, providing an alternative approach to transplantation of donor cells. Here, we provide an overview of the underlying concept of using cellular reprogramming to convert cell fates and discuss the current advances in cellular reprogramming both in vitro and in vivo, with particular focuses on the neural and retinal systems. We also discuss the potential of in vivo reprogramming in regenerative medicine, the challenges and potential solutions to translate this technology to the clinic.
Mitochondrial DNA Variation and Disease Susceptibility in Primary Open-Angle Glaucoma
(ASSOC RESEARCH VISION OPHTHALMOLOGY INC, 2018-09-01)
Purpose: To determine whether mitochondrial DNA haplogroups or rare variants associate with primary open-angle glaucoma in subjects of European descent. Methods: A case-control comparison of age- and sex-matched cohorts of 90 primary open-angle glaucoma patients and 95 population controls. Full mitochondrial DNA sequences from peripheral blood were generated by next-generation sequencing and compared to the revised Cambridge Reference Sequence to define mitochondrial haplogroups and variants. Results: Most subjects were of the major European haplogroups H, J, K, U, and T. Logistic regression analysis showed haplogroup U to be significantly underrepresented in male primary open-angle glaucoma subjects (odds ratio 0.25; 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.09-0.67; P = 0.007; Bonferroni multiple testing P = 0.022). Variants in the mitochondrial DNA gene MT-ND2 were overrepresented in the control group (P = 0.005; Bonferroni multiple testing correction P = 0.015). Conclusions: Mitochondrial DNA ancestral lineages modulate the risk for primary open-angle glaucoma in populations of European descent. Haplogroup U and rare variants in the mitochondrial DNA-encoded MT-ND2 gene may be protective against primary open-angle glaucoma. Larger studies are warranted to explore haplogroup associations with disease risk in different ethnic groups and define biomarkers of primary open-angle glaucoma endophenotypes to target therapeutic strategies.
Using transcription factors for direct reprogramming of neurons in vitro
(BAISHIDENG PUBLISHING GROUP INC, 2019-07-26)
Cell therapy offers great promises in replacing the neurons lost due to neurodegenerative diseases or injuries. However, a key challenge is the cellular source for transplantation which is often limited by donor availability. Direct reprogramming provides an exciting avenue to generate specialized neuron subtypes in vitro, which have the potential to be used for autologous transplantation, as well as generation of patient-specific disease models in the lab for drug discovery and testing gene therapy. Here we present a detailed review on transcription factors that promote direct reprogramming of specific neuronal subtypes with particular focus on glutamatergic, GABAergic, dopaminergic, sensory and retinal neurons. We will discuss the developmental role of master transcriptional regulators and specification factors for neuronal subtypes, and summarize their use in promoting direct reprogramming into different neuronal subtypes. Furthermore, we will discuss up-and-coming technologies that advance the cell reprogramming field, including the use of computational prediction of reprogramming factors, opportunity of cellular reprogramming using small chemicals and microRNA, as well as the exciting potential for applying direct reprogramming in vivo as a novel approach to promote neuro-regeneration within the body. Finally, we will highlight the clinical potential of direct reprogramming and discuss the hurdles that need to be overcome for clinical translation.
Pioglitazone and Deoxyribonucleoside Combination Treatment Increases Mitochondrial Respiratory Capacity in m.3243A > G MELAS Cybrid Cells
The lack of effective treatments for mitochondrial disease has seen the development of new approaches, including those that aim to stimulate mitochondrial biogenesis to boost ATP generation above a critical disease threshold. Here, we examine the effects of the peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor γ (PPARγ) activator pioglitazone (PioG), in combination with deoxyribonucleosides (dNs), on mitochondrial biogenesis in cybrid cells containing >90% of the m.3243A>G mutation associated with mitochondrial encephalopathy, lactic acidosis, and stroke-like episodes (MELAS). PioG + dNs combination treatment increased mtDNA copy number and mitochondrial mass in both control (CON) and m.3243A>G (MUT) cybrids, with no adverse effects on cell proliferation. PioG + dNs also increased mtDNA-encoded transcripts in CON cybrids, but had the opposite effect in MUT cybrids, reducing the already elevated transcript levels. Steady-state levels of mature oxidative phosphorylation (OXPHOS) protein complexes were increased by PioG + dNs treatment in CON cybrids, but were unchanged in MUT cybrids. However, treatment was able to significantly increase maximal mitochondrial oxygen consumption rates and cell respiratory control ratios in both CON and MUT cybrids. Overall, these findings highlight the ability of PioG + dNs to improve mitochondrial respiratory function in cybrid cells containing the m.3243A>G MELAS mutation, as well as their potential for development into novel therapies to treat mitochondrial disease.