Therapeutic lentivirus-mediated neonatal in vivo gene therapy in hyperbilirubinemic Gunn rats
Crigler-Najjar type 1 disease (CN-1) is a genetic disorder characterized by high levels of unconjugated bilirubin due to the absence of hepatic UDPglucuronosyltransferase (UGT1) activity. Here we show that in vivo neonatal hepatocyte transduction with a lentiviral vector expressing the defective enzyme resulted in long-term correction in Gunn rats, a model of CN-1. Lentiviral vectors harboring the human UGT1 cDNA (approved symbol UGT1A1) under the control of a liver-specific transthyretin promoter were produced. Two-day-old Gunn rats were injected with 50 microl of vector. Bilirubinemia was monitored at 6 weeks and monthly thereafter. At 6 weeks, bilirubinemia was completely normalized in treated animals, whereas it remained around 100 microM in control rats. The level of correction remained stable for up to 42 weeks. Large amounts of bilirubin conjugates were present in the bile of corrected animals. PCR and Western blots confirmed the presence and expression of UGT1 in liver. The estimated proportion of transduced hepatocytes was 40% and transduced cells were not detected in extrahepatic tissues except bone marrow in some animals. This work represents the first demonstration of a complete and permanent correction of hyperbilirubinemia in Gunn rats using lentiviral vectors.