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Deficiency of the sedoheptulose kinase (Shpk) does not alter the ability of hematopoietic stem cells to rescue cystinosis in the mouse model


Cystinosis is an autosomal recessive lysosomal storage disorder caused by mutations in the CTNS gene encoding the lysosomal cystine transporter, cystinosin, and leading to multi-organ degeneration including kidney failure. A clinical trial for cystinosis is ongoing to test the safety and efficacy of transplantation of autologous hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells (HSPCs) ex vivo gene-modified to introduce functional CTNS cDNA. Preclinical studies in Ctns-/- mice previously showed that a single HSPC transplantation led to significant tissue cystine decrease and long-term tissue preservation. The main mechanism of action involves the differentiation of the transplanted HSPCs into macrophages within tissues and transfer of cystinosin-bearing lysosomes to the diseased cells via tunneling nanotubes. However, a major concern was that the most common cystinosis-causing mutation in humans is a 57-kb deletion that eliminates not only CTNS but also the adjacent sedopheptulose kinase SHPK/CARKL gene encoding a metabolic enzyme that influences macrophage polarization. Here, we investigated if absence of Shpk could negatively impact the efficiency of transplanted HSPCs to differentiate into macrophages within tissues and then to prevent cystinosis rescue. We generated Shpk knockout mouse models and detected a phenotype consisting of perturbations in the pentose phosphate pathway (PPP), the metabolic shunt regulated by SHPK. Shpk-/- mice also recapitulated the urinary excretion of sedoheptulose and erythritol found in cystinosis patients homozygous for the 57-kb deletion. Transplantation of Shpk-/--HSPCs into Ctns-/- mice resulted in significant reduction in tissue cystine load and restoration of Ctns expression, as well as improved kidney architecture comparable to WT-HSPC recipients. Altogether, these data demonstrate that absence of SHPK does not alter the ability of HSPCs to rescue cystinosis, and then patients homozygous for the 57-kb deletion should benefit from ex vivo gene therapy and can be enrolled in the ongoing clinical trial. However, because of the limits inherent to animal models, outcomes of this patient population will be carefully compared to the other enrolled subjects.

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