An Inducible Promoter Responsive to Different Porphyrinogenic Stimuli Improves Gene Therapy Vectors for Acute Intermittent Porphyria
Porphobilinogen deaminase (PBGD) gene therapy represents a promising therapeutic option for acute intermittent porphyria (AIP) patients suffering recurrent acute attacks. A first-in-human Phase I clinical trial confirmed the safety and tolerability of adeno-associated virus (AAV)-AAT-PBGD gene therapy, but higher doses and/or more efficient vectors are needed to achieve therapeutic expression of the transgene. This study assayed the insertion into the promoter of a short enhancer element able to induce transgene expression during exposure to endogenous and exogenous stimuli related to the pathology of the disease. The inclusion in tandem of two elements of the minimal functional sequence of human -aminolevulinic acid synthase drug-responsive enhancing sequence (ADRES) positioned upstream of the promoter strongly induced transgene expression in the presence of estrogens, starvation, and certain drugs known to trigger attacks in porphyria patients. The inclusion of two ADRES motives in an AAV vector improved therapeutic efficacy, reducing 10-fold the effective dose in AIP mice. In conclusion, the inclusion of specific enhancer elements in the promoter of gene therapy vectors for AIP was able to overexpress the therapeutic transgene when it is most needed, at the time when porphyrinogenic factors increase the demand for hepatic heme and precipitate acute porphyria attacks.