piggyBac transposons expressing full-length human dystrophin enable genetic correction of dystrophic mesoangioblasts
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Duchrdenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is a genetic neuromuscular disorder caused by the absence of dystrophin. We developed a novel gene therapy approach based on the use of the piggyBac (PB) transposon system to deliver the coding DNA sequence (CDS) of either full-length human dystrophin (DYS: 11.1 kb) or truncated microdystrophins (MD1: 3.6 kb; MD2: 4 kb). PB transposons encoding microdystrophins were transfected in C2C12 myoblasts, yielding 65±2% MD1 and 66±2% MD2 expression in differentiated multinucleated myotubes. A hyperactive PB (hyPB) transposase was then deployed to enable transposition of the large-size PB transposon (17 kb) encoding the full-length DYS and green fluorescence protein (GFP). Stable GFP expression attaining 78±3% could be achieved in the C2C12 myoblasts that had undergone transposition. Western blot analysis demonstrated expression of the full-length human DYS protein in myotubes. Subsequently, dystrophic mesoangioblasts from a Golden Retriever muscular dystrophy dog were transfected with the large-size PB transposon resulting in 50±5% GFP-expressing cells after stable transposition. This was consistent with correction of the differentiated dystrophic mesoangioblasts following expression of full-length human DYS. These results pave the way toward a novel non-viral gene therapy approach for DMD using PB transposons underscoring their potential to deliver large therapeutic genes.