Of men and mice: Human X-linked retinoschisis and fidelity in mouse modeling

Camasamudram Vijayasarathy, Sheik Pran Babu Sardar Pasha, Paul A. Sieving

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


X-linked Retinoschisis (XLRS) is an early-onset transretinal dystrophy, often with a prominent macular component, that affects males and generally spares heterozygous females because of X-linked recessive inheritance. It results from loss-of-function RS1 gene mutations on the X-chromosome. XLRS causes bilateral reduced acuities from young age, and on clinical exam and by ocular coherence tomography (OCT) the neurosensory retina shows foveo-macular cystic schisis cavities in the outer plexiform (OPL) and inner nuclear layers (INL). XLRS manifests between infancy and school-age with variable phenotypic presentation and without reliable genotype-phenotype correlations. INL disorganization disrupts synaptic signal transmission from photoreceptors to ON-bipolar cells, and this reduces the electroretinogram (ERG) bipolar b-wave disproportionately to photoreceptor a-wave changes. RS1 gene expression is localized mainly to photoreceptors and INL bipolar neurons, and RS1 protein is thought to play a critical cell adhesion role during normal retinal development and later for maintenance of retinal structure. Several independent XLRS mouse models with mutant RS1 were created that recapitulate features of human XLRS disease, with OPL-INL schisis cavities, early onset and variable phenotype across mutant models, and reduced ERG b-wave to a-wave amplitude ratio. The faithful phenotype of the XLRS mouse has assisted in delineating the disease pathophysiology. Delivery to XLRS mouse retina of an AAV8-RS1 construct under control of the RS1 promoter restores the retinal structure and synaptic function (with increase of b-wave amplitude). It also ameliorates the schisis-induced inflammatory microglia phenotype toward a state of immune quiescence. The results imply that XLRS gene therapy could yield therapeutic benefit to preserve morphological and functional retina particularly when intervention is conducted at earlier ages before retinal degeneration becomes irreversible. A phase I/IIa single-center, open-label, three-dose-escalation clinical trial reported a suitable safety and tolerability profile of intravitreally administered AAV8-RS1 gene replacement therapy for XLRS participants. Dose-related ocular inflammation occurred after dosing, but this resolved with topical and oral corticosteroids. Systemic antibodies against AAV8 increased in dose-dependent fashion, but no antibodies were observed against the RS1 protein. Retinal cavities closed transiently in one participant. Technological innovations in methods of gene delivery and strategies to further reduce immune responses are expected to enhance the therapeutic efficacy of the vector and ultimate success of a gene therapy approach.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number100999
JournalProgress in Retinal and Eye Research
StateAccepted/In press - 2021


  • Cystoid macular edema
  • Retina
  • Retinoschisin
  • RS1 gene therapy
  • Rs1-KO mice
  • X-linked retinoschisis
  • XLRS mouse/ rat models

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology
  • Sensory Systems


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