Tropism of AAV Vectors in Photoreceptor-Like Cells of Human iPSC-Derived Retinal Organoids.
McClements ME., Steward H., Atkin W., Goode EA., Gándara C., Chichagova V., MacLaren RE.
Purpose: To expand the use of human retinal organoids from induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) as an in vitro model of the retina for assessing gene therapy treatments, it is essential to establish efficient transduction. To date, targeted transduction of the photoreceptor-like cells of retinal organoids with adeno-associated virus (AAV) vectors has had varied degrees of success, which we have looked to improve in this study. Methods: Retinal organoids were differentiated from iPSCs of healthy donors and transduced with reporter AAV containing a CAG.GFP, CAG.RFP, GRK1.GFP, or EFS.GFP transgene. Capsid variants assessed were AAV5, AAV2 7m8, AAV2 quad mutant, AAV2 Y444F, and AAV8 Y733F. At 27 days post-transduction, retinal organoids were assessed for reporter expression and viability. Results: The short intron-less elongation factor 1 alpha (EFS) promoter provided minimal reporter expression, whereas vectors containing the CAG promoter enabled transduction in 1% to 37% of cells depending on the AAV serotype; the AAV2 quad mutant (average 19.4%) and AAV2 7m8 (16.4%) outperformed AAV5 (12%) and AAV8 Y733F (2.1%). Reporter expression from rhodopsin kinase (GRK1) promoter transgenes occurred in ∼5% of cells regardless of the serotype. Positive co-localization with recoverin-expressing cells was achieved from all GRK1 vectors and the CAG AAV2 quad mutant variant. Treatment with the AAV vectors did not influence retinal organoid viability. Conclusions: Reliable transduction of the photoreceptor-like cells of retinal organoids can be readily achieved. When using a CAG-driven transgene, transduction of a broad range of cell types is observed, and GRK1 transgenes provide a more restricted expression profile locating to the outer layer of photoreceptor-like cells of retinal organoids. Translational Relevance: This study expands the AAV capsid and transgene options for preclinical testing of gene therapy in iPSC-derived human retinal organoids.