Rescue of GM3 synthase deficiency by spatially controlled, rAAV-mediated ST3GAL5 delivery

GM3 synthase deficiency (GM3SD) is an infantile-onset epileptic encephalopathy syndrome caused by biallelic loss-of-function mutations in ST3GAL5. Loss of ST3GAL5 activity in humans results in systemic ganglioside deficiency and severe neurological impairment. No disease-modifying treatment is currently available. Certain recombinant adeno-associated viruses (rAAVs) can cross the blood-brain barrier to induce widespread, long-term gene expression in the CNS and represent a promising therapeutic strategy. Here, we show that a first-generation rAAV-ST3GAL5 replacement vector using a ubiquitous promoter restored tissue ST3GAL5 expression and normalized cerebral gangliosides in patient-derived induced pluripotent stem cell neurons and brain tissue from St3gal5-KO mice but caused fatal hepatotoxicity when administered systemically. In contrast, a second-generation vector optimized for CNS-restricted ST3GAL5 expression, administered by either the intracerebroventricular or i.v. route at P1, allowed for safe and effective rescue of lethality and behavior impairment in symptomatic GM3SD mice up to a year. These results support further clinical development of ST3GAL5 gene therapy.