Xiap protects retinal ganglion cells in the mutant nd4 mouse model of leber hereditary optic neuropathy

Sarah J. Wassmer, Yves De Repentigny, Derek Sheppard, Pamela S. Lagali, Lijun Fang, Stuart G. Coupland, Rashmi Kothary, John Guy, William W. Hauswirth, Catherine Tsilfidis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


PURPOSE. Leber hereditary optic neuropathy (LHON) is a genetic form of vision loss that occurs primarily owing to mutations in the nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide dehydrogenase (ND) subunits that make up complex I of the electron transport chain. LHON mutations result in the apoptotic death of retinal ganglion cells.We tested the hypothesis that gene therapy with the X-linked inhibitor of apoptosis (XIAP) would prevent retinal ganglion cell apoptosis and reduce disease progression in a vector-induced mouse model of LHON that carries the ND4 mutation. METHODS. Adeno-associated virus (AAV) encoding full length hemagglutinin-tagged XIAP (AAV2.HA-XIAP) or green fluorescent protein (AAV2.GFP) was injected into the vitreous of DBA/1J mice. Two weeks later, the LHON phenotype was induced by AAV delivery of mutant ND4 (AAV2.mND4FLAG) to the vitreous. Retinal function was assessed by pattern electroretinography. Optic nerves were harvested at 4 months, and the effects of XIAP therapy on nerve fiber layer and optic nerve integrity were evaluated using immunohistochemistry, transmission electron microscopy and magnetic resonance imaging. RESULTS. During LHON disease progression, retinal ganglion cell axons are lost. Apoptotic cell bodies are seen in the nuclei of astrocytes or oligodendrocytes in the optic nerve, and there is thinning of the optic nerve and the nerve fiber layer of the retina. At 4 months after disease onset, XIAP gene therapy protects the nerve fiber layer and optic nerve architecture by preserving axon health. XIAP also decreases nuclear fragmentation in resident astrocytes or oligodendrocytes and decreases glial cell infiltration. CONCLUSIONS. XIAP therapy improves optic nerve health and delays disease progression in LHON.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number49
JournalInvestigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science
Issue number8
StatePublished - Jul 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Gene therapy
  • Leber hereditary optic neuropathy
  • Xiap

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology
  • Sensory Systems
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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