The autosomal codominant genetic disorder alpha-1 antitrypsin (AAT) deficiency (AATD) causes pulmonary and liver disease. Individuals homozygous for the mutant Z allele accumulate polymers of Z-AAT protein in hepatocytes, where AAT is primarily produced. This accumulation causes endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress, oxidative stress, damage to mitochondria, and inflammation, leading to fibrosis, cirrhosis, and hepatocellular carcinoma. The magnitude of AAT reduction and duration of response from first-generation intravenously administered RNA interference (RNAi) therapeutic ARC-AAT and then with next-generation subcutaneously administered ARO-AAT were assessed by measuring AAT protein in serum of the PiZ transgenic mouse model and human volunteers. The impact of Z-AAT reduction by RNAi on liver disease phenotypes was evaluated in PiZ mice by measuring polymeric Z-AAT in the liver; expression of genes associated with fibrosis, autophagy, apoptosis, and redox regulation; inflammation; Z-AAT globule parameters; and tumor formation. Ultrastructure of the ER, mitochondria, and autophagosomes in hepatocytes was evaluated by electron microscopy. In mice, sustained RNAi treatment reduced hepatic Z-AAT polymer, restored ER and mitochondrial health, normalized expression of disease-associated genes, reduced inflammation, and prevented tumor formation. RNAi therapy holds promise for the treatment of patients with AATD-associated liver disease. ARO-AAT is currently in phase II/III clinical trials.
Christine I. Wooddell, Keith Blomenkamp, Ryan M. Peterson, Vladimir M. Subbotin, Christian Schwabe, James Hamilton, Qili Chu, Dawn R. Christianson, Julia O. Hegge, John Kolbe, Holly L. Hamilton, Maria F. Branca-Afrazi, Bruce D. Given, David L. Lewis, Edward Gane, Steven B. Kanner, Jeffrey H. Teckman