Adeno-associated virus-mediated aspartoacylase gene transfer to the brain of knockout mouse for canavan disease

Reuben Matalon, Sankar Surendran, Peter L. Rady, Michael J. Quast, Gerald A. Campbell, Kimberlee M. Matalon, Stephen K. Tyring, Jingna Wei, Carmen S. Peden, Ed L. Ezell, Nicholas Muzyczka, Ronald J. Mandel

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

62 Scopus citations


Canavan disease (CD) is an autosomal recessive leukodystrophy caused by deficiency of aspartoacylase (ASPA). Deficiency of ASPA leads to elevation of N-acetyl-L-aspartic acid (NAA) in the brain and urine. To explore the feasibility of gene transfer to replace ASPA in CD, we generated a knockout mouse and constructed an AAV vector that encodes human ASPA cDNA, (hASPA) followed by green fluorescent protein (GFP) after an intraribosomal entry site. We injected CD mice with rAAV-hASPA-GFP in the striatum and thalamus or injected rAAV-GFP identically into control animals. Three to five months after the injection, we determined the presence of ASPA in the CD mouse brain by ASPA activity assay, GFP expression, and Western blot analysis. While rAAV-GFP-injected animals displayed undetectable levels of ASPA, all detection methods revealed significant ASPA levels in rAAV-hASPA-GFP-injected CD mice. We evaluated the functional effects of rAAV-hASPA-GFP-mediated ASPA expression by standard histological methods, magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) for in vivo NAA levels, and magnetic resonance imaging of CD mice. rAAV-hASPA-injected animals displayed a remarkable lack of spongiform degeneration in the thalamus. However, pathology in sites unrelated to the injected areas showed no improvement in histopathology. The improvement in thalamic neuropathology was also detectable via in vivo MRI. MRS revealed that in vivo NAA levels were also reduced. These data indicate that rAAV-mediated ASPA delivery may be an interesting avenue for the treatment of CD.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)580-587
Number of pages8
JournalMolecular Therapy
Issue number5 I
StatePublished - May 1 2003


  • Aspartoacylase
  • Canavan
  • Canavan mice
  • Gene transfer
  • rAAV-hASPA

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Pharmacology
  • Drug Discovery


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