• adeno-associated virus;
  • AMD;
  • angiogenesis;
  • anti-VEGF gene therapy;
  • choroidal neovascularization;
  • short hairpin RNA



Strategies leading to the long-term suppression of inappropriate ocular angiogenesis are required to avoid the need for repetitive monthly injections for treatment of diseases of the eye, such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD). The present study aimed to develop a strategy for the sustained repression of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), which is identified as the key player in exudative AMD.


We have employed short hairpin (sh)RNAs combined with adeno-associated virus (AAV) delivery to obtain the targeted expression of potent gene-regulatory molecules. Anti-VEGF shRNAs were analyzed in human retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) cells using Renilla luciferase screening. For in vivo delivery of the most potent shRNA, self-complementary AAV vectors were packaged in serotype 8 capsids (scAAV2/8-hU6-sh9). In vivo efficacy was evaluated either by injection of scAAV2/8-hU6-sh9 into murine hind limb muscles or in a laser-induced murine model of choroidal neovascularization (CNV) following scAAV2/8-hU6-sh9 subretinal delivery.


Plasmids encoding anti-VEGF shRNAs showed efficient knockdown of human VEGF in RPEs. Intramuscular administration led to localized expression and 91% knockdown of endogenous murine (m)VEGF. Subsequently, the ability of AAV2/8-encoded shRNAs to impair vessel formation was evaluated in the murine model of CNV. In this model, the sizes of the CNV were significantly reduced (up to 48%) following scAAV2/8-hU6-sh9 subretinal delivery.


Using anti-VEGF vectors, we have demonstrated efficient silencing of endogenous mVEGF and showed that subretinal administration of scAAV2/8-hU6-sh9 has the ability to impair vessel formation in an AMD animal model. Thus, AAV-encoded shRNA can be used for the inhibition of neovascularization, leading to the development of sustained anti-VEGF therapy. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.