Golgi-retained Cx32 mutants interfere with gene addition therapy for CMT1X

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Numerous GJB1 gene mutations cause the X-linked form of Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease (CMT1X). GJB1 encodes connexin32 (Cx32), which forms trans-myelin gap junctions in Schwann cells. Most GJB1 mutations result in loss-of-function mechanisms, supporting the concept of gene replacement therapy. However, interactions between delivered wild type and endogenously expressed mutant Cx32 may potentially occur in the setting of gene replacement therapy. In order to screen for possible interactions of several representative CMT1X mutants with wild type Cx32 that may interfere with the functional gap junction formation, we established an in vitro screening method co-expressing in HeLa cells wild type Cx32 and one of eight different Cx32 mutants including A39P, A39V, T55I, R75W, M93V, L143P, N175D and R183S. Some of the Golgi-retained mutants hindered gap junction plaque assembly by Cx32 on the cell membrane, while co-immunoprecipitation analysis revealed a partial interaction of wild type protein with Golgi-retained mutants. Dye transfer studies confirmed that Golgi-retained R75W, M93V and N175D but not endoplasmic reticulum-retained T55I had a negative effect on wild type Cx32 function. Finally, in vivo intraneural delivery of the gene encoding the wild type Cx32 in mice bearing either the T55I or R75W mutation on Cx32 knockout background showed that virally delivered protein was correctly localized in mice expressing the endoplasmic reticulum-retained T55I whereas it did not traffic normally in mice expressing the Golgi-retained R75W. Thus, certain Golgi-retained Cx32 mutants may interfere with exogenously delivered Cx32. Screening for mutant-wild type Cx32 interactions should be considered prior to planning gene addition therapy for CMT1X.

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