Title:
COMPOSITIONS AND METHODS FOR REGULATION OF SMOOTH MUSCLE CELLS AND BLOOD PRESSURE
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
The invention encompasses a composition for regulating smooth muscle cells. In particular, the invention encompasses a vector comprising a smooth muscle promoter operably-linked to a nucleic acid encoding a calcium-activated potassium channel.



Inventors:
Rhee, Sung W. (Little Rock, AR, US)
Hermonat, Paul L. (Little Rock, AR, US)
Rusch, Nancy J. (Bigelow, AR, US)
Application Number:
12/109756
Publication Date:
10/30/2008
Filing Date:
04/25/2008
Assignee:
BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF THE UNIVERSITY OF ARKANSAS (Little Rock, AR, US)
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
435/320.1
International Classes:
A61K31/70; A61P9/00; C12N15/00
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
WILSON, MICHAEL C
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
POLSINELLI PC (900 WEST 48TH PLACE SUITE 900, KANSAS CITY, MO, 64112-1895, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A vector comprising a smooth muscle specific promoter operably linked to a nucleic acid sequence encoding a calcium-activated potassium channel.

2. The vector of claim 1, wherein the smooth muscle specific promoter is a promoter selected from the group consisting of SEQ ID NO.:1, SEQ ID NO.:2, SEQ ID NO.:3, and SEQ ID NO.:9.

3. The vector of claim 1, wherein the promoter is a human promoter.

4. The vector of claim 1, wherein the nucleic acid sequence encoding a calcium-activated potassium channel encodes a BKα subunit.

5. The vector of claim 4, wherein the BKα subunit is a human BKα subunit.

6. The vector of claim 1, wherein the nucleic acid sequence encoding a calcium-activated potassium channel is selected from the group consisting of SEQ ID NO.:4, SEQ ID NO.:6, SEQ ID NO.:7, SEQ ID NO.:8 and a coding sequence of any of the foregoing.

7. The vector of claim 1, wherein the vector comprises an AAV vector.

8. The vector of claim 5, wherein the vector comprises SEQ ID NO.: 5.

9. A method for regulating the blood pressure of a mouse, the method comprising administering to the mouse a vector comprising a smooth muscle specific promoter operably linked to a nucleic acid sequence encoding a calcium-activated potassium channel.

10. The method of claim 9, wherein the smooth muscle specific promoter is selected from the group consisting of SEQ ID NO.:1, SEQ ID NO.:2, SEQ ID NO.:3, and SEQ ID NO.:9.

11. The vector of claim 9, wherein the nucleic acid sequence encoding a calcium-activated potassium channel encodes a BKα subunit.

12. The method of claim 9, wherein the nucleic acid sequence encoding a calcium-activated potassium channel is selected from the group consisting of SEQ ID NO.: 4, SEQ ID NO.: 6, SEQ ID NO.: 7, SEQ ID NO.: 8 and a coding sequence of any of the foregoing.

13. The method of claim 9, wherein the vector comprises an AAV vector.

14. The method of claim 9, wherein the vector comprises SEQ ID NO.: 5.

15. A method of expressing a calcium-activated potassium channel in a smooth muscle cell, the method comprising contacting the smooth muscle cell with a vector comprising a smooth muscle specific promoter operably-linked to a nucleic acid sequence encoding a calcium-activated potassium channel.

16. The method of claim 15, wherein the smooth muscle specific promoter is selected from the group consisting of SEQ ID NO.:1, SEQ ID NO.:2, SEQ ID NO.:3, and SEQ ID NO.:9.

17. The vector of claim 15, wherein the nucleic acid sequence encoding a calcium-activated potassium channel encodes a BKα subunit.

18. The method of claim 15, wherein the nucleic acid sequence encoding a calcium-activated potassium channel is SEQ ID NO.: 4, SEQ ID NO.: 6, SEQ ID NO.: 7, SEQ ID NO.: 8 and a coding sequence of any of the foregoing.

19. The method of claim 15, wherein the vector comprises an AAV vector.

20. The method of claim 15, wherein the vector comprises SEQ ID NO.: 5.

Description:

CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application claims the priority of U.S. provisional application No. 60/914,718, filed Apr. 27, 2007, hereby incorporated by reference in its entirety.

GOVERNMENTAL RIGHTS

This invention was made with government support under RO1 HL59238-08 awarded by the National Institutes of Health. The United States government has certain rights in this invention.

REFERENCE TO SEQUENCE LISTING

A paper copy of the sequence listing and a computer readable form of the same sequence listing are appended below and herein incorporated by reference. The information recorded in computer readable form is identical to the written sequence listing, according to 37 C.F.R. 1.821 (f).

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The invention encompasses a composition for regulating smooth muscle cells.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Nearly 60 million Americans are estimated to suffer from systemic hypertension, and the hallmark finding of this disease is an abnormally high peripheral vascular resistance. Additionally, vasospasm is a finding in some forms of coronary, cerebral and systemic arterial occlusions and also can occur during or after angioplasty to relieve vascular stenoses. New therapeutic approaches are needed to reduce the anomalous vascular tone. For example, only about one-third of patients with essential hypertension (i.e., hypertension of unknown etiology) are successfully treated by standard antihypertensive drugs, and most of these patients require daily, multi-drug therapy to achieve blood pressure reduction, which may lead to one or more side effects.

High-conductance voltage- and calcium-activated potassium channels, named “BK channels” because of their big unitary conductances (150 to 300 pS), are expressed in all vascular beds. The opening of these channels mediates a hyperpolarizing potassium current that buffers contraction of vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMCs) in the arterial wall, resulting in vasodilation of small arteries and arterioles. The α subunit of the BK channel forms the ion-conducting pore, and appears to arise from a single gene family, although phenotypic diversity may be generated by a high level of alternative splicing of the common primary transcript. The BK channel complex also includes a β subunit that increases the sensitivity of the α subunit to intracellular calcium, thereby enhancing its activation level. Deletion of the subunit in KO mice to create poorly functional BK channels results in a blood pressure elevation of approximately 20 mm Hg.

During vascular activation caused by vasoconstrictor stimuli, membrane depolarization and the associated rise in cytosolic calcium act synergistically to further open BK channels. Thus, the BK channels buffer VSMC excitation and prevent abnormal arterial contraction by exerting a vasodilator influence. However, this vasodilator influence cannot fully dampen anomalous vasoconstriction under some conditions, including local vasospasm and during pulmonary or systemic hypertension in which an elevated arterial tone persists despite the activation of compensatory mechanisms. Under these conditions, therapeutic interventions are required to restore normal levels of vascular tone.

A unique vasodilator therapy comprising the long-term expression of a potent endogenous vasodilator protein in smooth muscle cells has clear advantages over standard antihypertensive drugs in terms of cost, convenience, and tissue and target specificity. Such a method may provide long-term vasodilation with few side effects compared to standard vasodilator and antihypertensive therapies.

The long-term delivery of BK channels to VSMCs using a smooth muscle-specific promoter provides at least two important advantages. First, its hyperpolarizing influence may limit further increases in vascular resistance and blood pressure during the pathogenesis of hypertension. Second, a higher density of BK channels may prevent or alleviate anomalous vasoconstriction and vasospasm in a single vessel or in a vessel network.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

Hence, one aspect of the present invention encompasses a vector. The vector comprises a smooth muscle specific promoter operably linked to a nucleic acid sequence encoding a calcium-activated potassium channel.

Another aspect of the invention encompasses a method for regulating the blood pressure of a mouse. The method comprises administering to the mouse a vector comprising a smooth muscle specific promoter operably linked to a nucleic acid sequence encoding a calcium-activated potassium channel.

Yet another aspect of the invention encompasses a method of expressing a calcium-activated potassium channel in a smooth muscle cell. The method comprises contacting the smooth muscle cell with a vector comprising a smooth muscle specific promoter operably-linked to a nucleic acid sequence encoding a calcium-activated potassium channel.

Other aspects and iterations of the invention are described more thoroughly below.

REFERENCE TO COLOR FIGURES

The application file contains at least one photograph executed in color. Copies of this patent application publication with color photographs will be provided by the Office upon request and payment of the necessary fee.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE FIGURES

FIG. 1 depicts an illustration of a map of a vector of the present invention.

FIG. 2 depicts a photograph illustrating PCR amplification of the BKα transgene. Samples were taken from heart, liver, and mesenteric arteries of mice 6 weeks after injecting AAV/MusB-GFP (Control, Ctrl) or AAV/SM22-BKα (BK). Only the mesenteric artery showed PCR product corresponding to mRNA of the BKα transgene.

FIG. 3 depicts a graph showing a reduction in blood pressure. SBP was averaged during a 2 week interval in four groups of mice (n=4-5 each). Control mice (control) were not injected with MV or infused with Ang II. The other 3 groups of mice received tail vein injections of either AAV/MusB-GFP (1011 vp/kg), AAV/MusB-BKα (1010 vp/kg) or AAV/SM22-BKα (1011 vp/kg). After 3 weeks, Ang II was infused to induce hypertension, and then SBP was measured for two weeks to evaluate the antihypertensive effect of the therapeutic vectors on the established phase of hypertension. Compared to GFP, MV-mediated delivery of AAV/MusB-BKα or AAV/SM22BKα significantly lowered blood pressure, and the effect appeared to be dose-dependent. Mean +SD (n=4, 5). * and #: different from Control and GFP, respectively. (P<0.05)

FIG. 4 depicts illustrations of vectors and promoters of the invention, and a graph showing promoter activity. A) DNA sequence of the SM22α and MusB promoters. Bolded sequences represent CArG boxes (SM22α) or a modified CArG sequence (MusB). B) Luciferase assay showed ˜20-fold higher activity of MusB in rat aortic VSMCs compared to rat cardiac myocytes. C) The four MV constructs. The SM22α or MusB promoters will be used to drive expression of GFP (control) or the nucleic acid of interest, BKα.

FIG. 5 depicts photographs of the expressed constructs. A) Green fluorescence from A7r5 cells 72 hr after transfection with SM22-GFP or MusB-GFP plasmids. B) Mouse aorta collected 9 wks after injecting AAV/SM22-GFP. VSMCs show green fluorescence (arrows) when stained with Alexa488-labeled anti-GFP antibody. Autofluorescence from connective layers is seen as yellow (yellow arrowheads) and nuclei were stained with DAPI (blue).

FIG. 6 depicts a photograph and graphs showing the presence of BKα in mouse aorta and mesenteric arteries. A) Western blot detection of BKα (˜125 kD) in mouse aorta and mesenteric arteries (MA). B) Whole-cell K+ current in a mouse mesenteric current in VSMCs from the mouse VSMC before (left trace), and after (middle trace) the addition of the BK channel mesentery, a vascular bed involved blocker, iberiotoxin (100 nmol/L Ibtx). The difference between the two traces was computed digitally to isolate the Ibtx-sensitive BK current (right trace).

FIG. 7 depicts illustrations showing expression data. A) PCR amplification revealed the absence of BKα and BKβ1 mRNAs in A7r5 cells. Rat mesenteric arteries (MA) were used as a positive expression control. B) Voltage pulses from a holding potential of −70 mV to +50 mV failed to elicit K+ current in A7r5 cells. C) However, A7r5 cells transfected with SM22-BKα displayed K+ current.

FIG. 8 depicts photographs showing how vascular reactivity assays will compare the dilator function of BK channels between arteries of normotensive mice, hypertensive mice, and mice treated with the AAV/BKα gene, using: A and B) Isolated, cannulated mesenteric arteries. The dilator influence of BK channels will be blocked by iberiotoxin (Ibtx). C) Similar diameter responses will be assessed in the intact mesenteric vascular bed using intravital video microscopy (IVVM).

FIG. 9 depicts graphs showing blood pressure of mice exposed to angiotensin II. A) Daily averages of systolic, mean, and diastolic pressure measured by biotelemetry. Ang II minipumps (2 μg/kg/min) were implanted on Day 0. Error bars (SD, n=5). B) Mean arterial pressure from two mice measured by biotelemetry. Ang II minipumps inserted on Day 0 (arrowhead) were exchanged after six weeks (arrow) with a second Ang II (top trace) or a saline minipump (lower trace). C) Systolic blood pressure measured by tailcuff. Ang 11 (2 μg/kg/min), NE (4 μg/kg/min), or saline minipumps were implanted on Day 0. Error bars (SEM, n=6, 7).

FIG. 10 depicts a photograph of the expression of the vector. DNA extracted from mesenteric arteries from each group of mice was probed for AAV/BKα to confirm AAV-mediated gene delivery.

FIG. 11 depicts a graph showing Ang II-induced hypertension was not attenuated in mice injected with 2 doses of AAV/SM22-GFP 5×1010 vp/kg; 3 days apart. However, a sustained reduction in blood pressure was recorded by telemetry in a similar Ang II-infused hypertensive mouse injected with the same viral dose of AAV/SM22-BKα.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

The present invention provides compositions and methods for the expression of a calcium-activated potassium channel in smooth muscle cells. In particular, the present invention provides a vector comprising a smooth muscle promoter operably linked to a nucleic acid encoding a calcium-activated potassium channel.

I. Composition Comprising a Vector

One aspect of the present invention is a composition comprising a vector for expressing a calcium-activated potassium channel in a smooth muscle cell. In various configurations, the vector may comprise a smooth muscle specific promoter operably linked to a nucleic acid sequence encoding a calcium-activated potassium channel. A nucleic acid sequence and a promoter are “operably linked” if the promoter sequence effectively controls transcription of the nucleic acid sequence.

The term “vector,” as used herein, refers to any nucleic acid capable of transforming target cells and expressing an inserted calcium-activated potassium channel nucleic acid or fragment of a calcium-activated potassium channel nucleic acid. The vector may be autonomously replicating or not, double-stranded or single-stranded, or encased in a viral capsid or not. Vectors of the present invention include viruses comprising capsid and nucleic acid, viral nucleic acid without capsid, DNA plasmids, linear DNA molecules and linear or circular RNA molecules. Vectors of the present invention include those vectors derived from retroviruses, adenovirus, adeno-associated virus, SV40 virus, or herpes virus. An adeno-associated virus (AAV) of the present invention may include any sub-type of adeno-associated virus capable of transducing a genetic element. In various embodiments of the present invention, the vector comprises an AAV vector. AAV vectors are known in the art, and may include, for instance, a vector, or a variant thereof, disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 5,139,941, hereby incorporated by reference in its entirety.

(a) promoter

A vector of the invention typically comprises a smooth muscle cell specific promoter. A “promoter” or “promoter sequence,” as used herein, is a nucleic acid regulatory region capable of binding RNA polymerase in a cell and initiating transcription of a downstream (3′ direction) coding sequence. For purposes of defining the present invention, a promoter sequence extends upstream (5′ direction) from the transcription start site to include the minimum number of bases or elements necessary to initiate transcription at levels detectable above background. In some instances, elements of a promoter may be found downstream (3′) of the transcription initiation site. Within the promoter sequence may be found a transcription initiation site, as well as protein binding domains (consensus sequences) responsible for the binding of cis and trans acting proteins and RNA polymerase. Eukaryotic promoters often, but not always, contain “TATA” boxes and “CAT” boxes.

“Smooth muscle cell specific,” as used herein, means that the promoter preferentially initiates transcription in smooth muscle cells as opposed to other cell types. In an exemplary embodiment, the promoter has detectable activity only in smooth muscle cells. A promoter of the invention may be from a mammal such as a rodent, a non-human primate, a companion animal, a livestock animal, or a human. Non-limiting examples of rodents may include mice, rats, and guinea pigs. Non-limiting examples of companion animals may include dogs and cats. Non-limiting examples of a livestock animal may include swine, cattle, or goats.

A promoter may be constitutive or may be regulatable. Non-limiting examples of a regulatable promoter may include promoters that require activators to initiate transcription, or alternatively, repressors to stop transcription. For instance, the tetracycline regulatable promoter may be used (i.e. the teton/tetoff system). Such regulatable promoters are known in the art.

In some embodiments, a promoter of the invention may be derived from a nucleic acid sequence specifically expressed in a smooth muscle cell. For instance, the promoter may be selected from the group comprising the SMMHC (smooth muscle myosin heavy chain, 16 kb) promoter, the FRNK (autonomously expressed carboxyl-terminal region of focal adhesion kinase, 15 kb) promoter, the CRP1 (Cysteine-Rich Protein 1, 5 kb) promoter, or the SM22α promoter. In one embodiment, the promoter may be a SM22αpromoter. As used herein, “SM22α promoter” refers to the region immediately upstream (5′) of the structural SM22α gene that controls expression of that gene. In some instances, the promoter may comprise the region of up to 50, 100, 500, 1,000, 1, 500, 2,000 or even up to about 5,000 bases immediately upstream of the translational start site of the SM22α gene. An SM22α promoter may also be described as an isolated nucleic acid segment comprising a contiguous sequence of bases from the SM22α gene such as bases −445 to +61, or such as a sequence of −441 to +41 bases from the transcription start site. The designations of −445 to +61 and the like indicate the position of a base relative to the transcriptional start site (+1).

Additionally, a promoter of the present invention includes any substantially homologous nucleic acid sequence that may be truncated, mutated, or any other variant of a promoter so long as the promoter remains operable and retains specificity for smooth muscle cell expression. Two DNA sequences are “substantially homologous” when at least about 75% (preferably at least about 80%, and most preferably at least about 90% or 95%) of the nucleotides match over the defined length of the DNA sequences. Sequences that are substantially homologous can be identified by comparing the sequences using standard software available in sequence data banks, or in a Southern hybridization experiment under, for example, stringent conditions as defined for that particular system. Defining appropriate hybridization conditions is within the skill of the art. See, e.g., Maniatis et al., DNA Cloning, Vols. I& II Nucleic Acid Hybridization.

In one embodiment, the promoter may comprise SEQ ID NO:1. SEQ ID NO. 1 represents a 507 nucleotide sequence corresponding to a mouse SM22α promoter. Alternatively, the promoter may comprise SEQ ID NO:2. SEQ ID NO:2 represents a 499 nucleotide sequence corresponding to a variant of a mouse SM22α promoter. In another embodiment, a promoter of the invention may have 75%, 80%, 85%, 90%, 91%, 92%, 93%, 94%, 95%, 96%, 97%, 98%, or 99% homologous to SEQ ID NO:1 or SEQ ID NO:2, so long as the promoter remains operable and retains specificity for smooth muscle cell expression. In yet another embodiment, a promoter may be a fragment of SEQ ID NO:1 or SEQ ID NO:2 that remains operable and retains specificity for smooth muscle cell expression.

In some embodiments, the promoter may be a human SM22α promoter. SEQ ID NO. 9 comprises a nucleotide sequence corresponding to the human SM22α coding sequence and smooth muscle specific promoter, which may be found as GenBank Accession No. D84342. A human SM22α promoter may include regulatory elements found 5′ to the ATG codon, including elements such as two CArG/SRF-boxes and two GC-box/Sp 1 binding sites present at bp-147 and −274, and at bp −233 and −1635, respectively.

In certain embodiments, a smooth muscle cell promoter may be a variant of a parent promoter that is not itself specific for a smooth muscle cell. For instance, a promoter may be altered, or varied, so that it is specific for a smooth muscle cell. For example, the smooth muscle cell promoter may be a variant of the cardiac myocin heavy chain promoter. In particular, the promoter may comprise the MusB promoter. Unlike the parent promoter, MusB is smooth muscle cell specific. Hence, in one embodiment, the promoter comprises SEQ ID NO:3. SEQ ID NO:3 represents a 246 nucleotide sequence corresponding to the mouse smooth muscle specific promoter MusB.

Additionally, a promoter of the present invention includes any substantially homologous nucleic acid sequence that may be truncated, mutated, or any other variant of the MusB promoter so long as the promoter remains operable and retains specificity for smooth muscle cell expression. Substantially homologous, as used herein, is defined above. For instance, in one embodiment, a promoter of the invention may have 75%, 80%, 85%, 90%, 91%, 92%, 93%, 94%, 95%, 96%, 97%, 98%, or 99% homologous to SEQ ID NO:3, so long as the promoter remains operable and retains specificity for smooth muscle cell expression. In another embodiment, a promoter may be a fragment of SEQ ID NO:3 that remains operable and retains specificity for smooth muscle cell expression.

In each of the above embodiments, a promoter may be smaller than the sequences specifically identified herein thereby operating as a minimal sequence required for constitutive smooth muscle cell transcription. Certain portions of sequences in a promoter may be required for spacing of the cis acting elements and any sequence that does not impart deleterious structural properties may be substituted for those spacer regions so long as the spacing remains substantially intact to allow the cis acting elements to function. All such promoters would be encompassed by the present invention.

In an exemplary embodiment, a promoter of the invention is of a length suitable for use in an AVV vector.

(b) Calcium-Activated Potassium Channel

A vector of the invention also typically comprises a nucleic acid sequence encoding a calcium-activated potassium channel. As used herein, calcium-activated potassium channel,” refers to a protein capable of forming an ion-conducting pore. Suitable calcium-activated potassium channels may include high conductance voltage-activated potassium channels, such as “BK channels.” In exemplary embodiments, a vector may comprise α subunit of a BK channel. A BK channel is typically composed of an α subunit (BKα) and a β subunit (BKβ). In one embodiment, a vector of the invention comprises a BKα subunit. In another embodiment, a vector of the invention comprises a BKβ subunit. A calcium-activated potassium channel of the invention may be from a mammal such as a rodent, a non-human primate, a companion animal, a livestock animal, or a human. Non-limiting examples of rodents may include mice, rats, and guinea pigs. Non-limiting examples of companion animals may include dogs and cats. Non-limiting examples of a livestock animal may include swine, cattle, or goats.

In one embodiment, a nucleic acid sequence encoding a calcium-activated potassium channel may be, for example, SEQ ID NO.:4. SEQ ID NO.:4 is a nucleotide sequence that comprises a coding sequence for a BKα protein, which may be found in GenBank under Accession No. U09383. In various embodiments of the present invention, the vector comprising a calcium-activated potassium channel may comprise the entire nucleotide sequence of SEQ ID NO.: 4. Alternatively, the vector may comprise only the coding sequence of SEQ ID NO.: 4 or a fragment thereof.

In another embodiment, a nucleic acid sequence encoding a calcium-activated potassium channel may be, for example, SEQ ID NO.:6. SEQ ID NO.:6 is a nucleotide sequence that comprises the coding sequence for a BKα protein, which may be found in GenBank under Accession No. NM002247. In various embodiments of the present invention, the vector comprising a calcium-activated potassium channel may comprise the entire nucleotide sequence of SEQ ID NO.:6. Alternatively, the vector may comprise only the coding sequence of SEQ ID NO.: 6 or a fragment thereof.

In yet another embodiment, a nucleic acid sequence encoding a calcium-activated potassium channel may be, for example, SEQ ID NO.: 7. SEQ ID NO.: 7 is a nucleotide sequence that comprises the coding sequence for a BKα protein, which may be found in GenBank under Accession No. NM001014797. In various embodiments of the present invention, the vector comprising a calcium-activated potassium channel may comprise the entire nucleotide sequence of SEQ ID NO.: 7. Alternatively, the vector may comprise only the coding sequence of SEQ ID NO.: 7 or a fragment thereof.

In still another embodiment, a nucleic acid sequence encoding a calcium-activated potassium channel may be, for example, SEQ ID NO.:8. SEQ ID NO.:8 is a nucleotide sequence that comprises the coding sequence for a BKα protein, which may be found in GenBank under Accession No. NM002247. In various embodiments of the present invention, the vector comprising a calcium-activated potassium channel may comprise the entire nucleotide sequence of SEQ ID NO.:8. Alternatively, the vector may comprise only the coding sequence of SEQ ID NO.: 8, or a fragment thereof.

A calcium-activated potassium channel sequence of the present invention may also include any substantially homologous nucleic acid sequence that may be truncated, mutated, or any other variant of a calcium-activated potassium channel so long as the channel remains operable, i.e. forms an ion-conducting pore. Substantially homologous, as used herein, is defined above. For instance, in one embodiment, a calcium-activated potassium channel of the invention may have 75%, 80%, 85%, 90%, 91%, 92%, 93%, 94%, 95%, 96%, 97%, 98%, or 99% homology to SEQ ID NO:4, SEQ ID NO:6, SEQ ID NO:7, or SEQ ID NO:8, so long as the channel remains operable. In another embodiment, a calcium-activated potassium channel may be a fragment of SEQ ID NO:4, SEQ ID NO:6, SEQ ID NO:7, or SEQ ID NO:8 that remains operable.

(c) Combinations

A vector of the invention may comprise various combinations of a smooth muscle promoter operably linked to a calcium-activated potassium channel. For instance, a vector may comprise a combination listed in Table A.

TABLE A
CALCIUM-ACTIVATED
PROMOTERPOTASSIUM CHANNEL
SEQ ID NO: 1SEQ ID NO: 4
SEQ ID NO: 1SEQ ID NO: 6
SEQ ID NO: 1SEQ ID NO: 7
SEQ ID NO: 1SEQ ID NO: 8
SEQ ID NO: 2SEQ ID NO: 4
SEQ ID NO: 2SEQ ID NO: 6
SEQ ID NO: 2SEQ ID NO: 7
SEQ ID NO: 2SEQ ID NO: 8
SEQ ID NO: 3SEQ ID NO: 4
SEQ ID NO: 3SEQ ID NO: 6
SEQ ID NO: 3SEQ ID NO: 7
SEQ ID NO: 3SEQ ID NO: 8
SEQ ID NO: 9SEQ ID NO: 4
SEQ ID NO: 9SEQ ID NO: 6
SEQ ID NO: 9SEQ ID NO: 7
SEQ ID NO: 9SEQ ID NO: 8

In particular, the vector may comprise SEQ ID NO.: 5, which is a 9,188 nucleotide sequence comprising part of an AAV genome, the smooth muscle specific promoter sequence of SEQ ID NO.: 1 and a nucleic acid encoding a calcium-activated potassium channel as represented by SEQ ID NO.:4.

(d) Pharmaceutical Composition

A vector of the invention may comprise a pharmaceutical composition. In some embodiments, the compositions may comprise pharmaceutically acceptable excipients. Examples of suitable excipients may include lactose, dextrose, sucrose, sorbitol, mannitol, starches, gum acacia, calcium phosphate, alginates, tragacanth, gelatin, calcium silicate, microcrystalline cellulose, polyvinylpyrrolidone, cellulose, sterile water, syrup, and methyl cellulose. The compositions may additionally include: lubricating agents such as talc, magnesium stearate, and mineral oil; wetting agents; emulsifying and suspending agents; preserving agents such as methyl- and propylhydroxy-benzoates; sweetening agents; and flavoring agents. The compositions of the invention may be formulated so as to provide quick, sustained or delayed release of the active ingredient after administration to a subject by employing procedures known in the art.

Injectable preparations of a composition of the invention, for example, sterile injectable aqueous or oleaginous suspensions, may be formulated according to the known art using suitable dispersing or wetting agents and suspending agents. The sterile injectable preparation may also be a sterile injectable solution or suspension in a nontoxic parenterally or intrathecally acceptable diluent or solvent. Among the acceptable vehicles and solvents that may be employed are water, Ringer's solution, and isotonic sodium chloride solution. In addition, sterile, fixed oils are conventionally employed as a solvent or suspending medium. For this purpose, any bland fixed oil may be employed, including synthetic mono- or diglycerides. In addition, fatty acids such as oleic acid are useful in the preparation of injectables. Dimethyl acetamide, surfactants including ionic and non-ionic detergents, and polyethylene glycols can be used. Mixtures of solvents and wetting agents such as those discussed above are also useful.

Formulations for administration of the composition may be in the form of aqueous or non-aqueous isotonic sterile injection solutions or suspensions. These solutions and suspensions may be prepared from sterile powders or granules having one or more of the carriers or diluents mentioned for use in the formulations for oral administration. The compounds may be dissolved in water, polyethylene glycol, propylene glycol, ethanol, corn oil, cottonseed oil, peanut oil, sesame oil, benzyl alcohol, sodium chloride, and/or various buffers. Other adjuvants and modes of administration are well and widely known in the pharmaceutical art.

II. Methods

The present invention further comprises a method of regulating the blood pressure of a mammal. In certain embodiments, the method comprises administering to said mammal a vector comprising a smooth muscle specific promoter operably linked to a nucleic acid sequence encoding a calcium-activated potassium channel. Accordingly, the smooth muscle specific promoter may be selected from the group consisting of SEQ ID NO.: 1, SEQ ID NO.: 2, and SEQ ID NO.: 3. The nucleic acid sequence encoding a calcium-activated potassium channel may be, for example, SEQ ID NO.: 4. In particular embodiments, a vector that is useful for the present method may comprise an AAV vector. Specifically, the vector may comprise SEQ ID NO.: 5. The method of the present embodiment may be used to regulate the blood pressure of a mammal, including for example, the blood pressure of a rodent, a non-human primate, a companion animal, a livestock animal, or a human. Non-limiting examples of rodents may include mice, rats, and guinea pigs. Non-limiting examples of companion animals may include dogs and cats. Non-limiting examples of a livestock animal may include swine, cattle, or goats.

In a further embodiment of the present invention, a method of expressing a calcium-activated potassium channel in a smooth muscle cell is disclosed. Such a method comprises contacting the smooth muscle cell with a vector comprising a smooth muscle specific promoter operably linked to a nucleic acid sequence encoding a calcium-activated potassium channel. The smooth muscle specific promoter may be selected from the group consisting of SEQ ID NO.: 1, SEQ ID NO.: 2, SEQ ID NO.: 3 and SEQ ID NO:9. Additionally, the nucleic acid sequence encoding a calcium-activated potassium channel may be SEQ ID NO.: 4. In some modes of the present embodiment, the vector may comprise an AAV vector, and in specific modes, the vector may comprise SEQ ID NO.:5. The promoter and the calcium-activated potassium channel may be a mammalian, and in particular, may be from a rodent, a non-human primate, a companion animal, a livestock animal, or a human. Non-limiting examples of rodents may include mice, rats, and guinea pigs. Non-limiting examples of companion animals may include dogs and cats. Non-limiting examples of a livestock animal may include swine, cattle, or goats.

DEFINITIONS

A DNA “coding sequence” is a double-stranded DNA sequence which is transcribed and translated into a polypeptide in vivo when placed under the control of appropriate regulatory sequences. The boundaries of the coding sequence are typically determined by a start codon at the 5′ (amino) terminus and a translation stop codon at the 3′ (carboxyl) terminus. A coding sequence can include, but is not limited to, prokaryotic sequences, cDNA from eukaryotic mRNA, genomic DNA sequences from eukaryotic (e.g., mammalian) DNA, and even synthetic DNA sequences. A polyadenylation signal and transcription termination sequence will usually be located 3′ to the coding sequence.

The term “high stringency” means DNA hybridization and wash conditions characterized by high temperature and low salt concentration, e.g., wash conditions of 65° C. at a salt concentration of approximately 0.1×SSC, or the functional equivalent thereof. For example, high stringency conditions may include hybridization at about 42° C. in the presence of about 50% formamide; a first wash at about 65° C. with about 2×SSC containing 1% SDS; followed by a second wash at about 65° C. with about 0.1×SSC.

A cell has been “transformed” by exogenous or heterologous DNA when such DNA has been introduced inside the cell. The transforming DNA may or may not be integrated (covalently linked) into the genome of the cell.

The following examples are included to demonstrate preferred embodiments of the invention. It should be appreciated by those of skill in the art that the techniques disclosed in the examples that follow represent techniques discovered by the inventors to function well in the practice of the invention. Those of skill in the art should, however, in light of the present disclosure, appreciate that many changes can be made in the specific embodiments that are disclosed and still obtain a like or similar result without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention, therefore all matter set forth or shown in the accompanying drawings is to be interpreted as illustrative and not in a limiting sense.

EXAMPLES

The following examples illustrate various iterations of the invention.

Example 1

Reduction of Blood Pressure

The MV delivery of pore-forming, BKα-subunits into the vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMCs) of resistance arteries reduces blood pressure in hypertensive mice but does not affect resting blood pressure levels. The present inventors have constructed the MV vector with the mouse BK transgene (mSlo) using either of two smooth muscle specific promoters, including a truncated form of the SM22α promoter that shows VSMC specificity (see FIG. 1 and SEQ ID NO.: 5). Also, the present inventors have constructed an MV vector using a newly designed “MusB” promoter derived from the cardiac myosin heavy chain promoter that prefers VSMC transgene expression.

The antihypertensive effect of two MV vectors, AAV/MusB-BKα and AAV/SM22BKα, were evaluated using tail-cuff plethysmography. These studies provided the evidence that MV-mediated delivery of BKα could profoundly reduce high blood pressure in hypertensive mice. The MV vectors were administered by tail vein injection prior to inducing hypertension by Ang II infusion in C57BL/6J mice.

As a first strategy, the virus was allowed to fully express MusB-BKα or SM22-BKα for 3 weeks to determine if the mature expression of the therapeutic BKα transgene could blunt Ang II-induced hypertension. Two different doses of virus particles (vp) were evaluated. Mice were injected with either MV/MusB-BKα (1010 vp/k g; n=5), VV/SM22-BKα (1011 vp/kg; n=4), or MV/MusB-GFP as a control vector (1011 vp/kg; n=4). Subsequently, PCR amplification of the AAV/BKα DNA fragment confirmed a smaller amount of DNA corresponding to the BKα transgene in the mesenteric arteries of mice injected with MV/MusB-BKα compared to MV/SM22-BKα, corresponding to the 10-fold less AAV/MusB-BKα virus particles injected (FIG. 2 and FIG. 10). Three weeks after MV injection, Ang II (2 μg/kg/min) was infused by osmotic minipump for one week to establish hypertension (as shown in FIG. 9A), and systolic blood pressure (SBP) was monitored by tail cuff every weekday for 2 weeks. One day's measurement consisted of 5 readings from each animal done as a two-person, single-blind experiment. The ten-day average value was assigned to each animal and statistical analysis was done on those values (n=4 or 5). Both AAV/BKα groups had significantly lower SBP than mice injected with the control vector, AAV/MusB-GFP, which showed an average SBP of 177±15 mm Hg (FIG. 3 and FIG. 3). In contrast, the SBP of mice injected with AAV/MusB-BKα (1010 vp/kg) was 156±6 mm Hg, and the SBP of mice injected with AAV/SM22-BKα (1011 vp/kg) averaged 140±15 mm Hg. All animals appeared healthy, and showed similar weights. To our knowledge, these findings provide the first evidence that AAV delivery using smooth muscle-specific promoters to deliver a K+ channel gene to arterial VSMCs can profoundly blunt the development of high blood pressure in hypertensive animals.

Example 2

Promoters

The SM22α promoter is one of the few documented smooth muscle-specific promoters that preferentially expresses genes in arterial VSMCs compared to other cell types, and even compared to other types of smooth muscle cells including visceral or venous. The truncated SM22α is the only form that is small enough in size (445 bp) to be packaged into AAV with our therapeutic gene, BKα. However, a putative smooth muscle-specific promoter, “MusB”, was recently discovered that also is small enough in size (245 bp) to be used in AAV vectors. The MusB promoter was generated during a study to make small, AAV-friendly, muscle-active promoters. The promoter region of the full-length cardiac a myosin heavy chain (GenBank accession No. Z20656) was truncated by removing the putative “enhancer” element (nucleotide 4120-4321). The resulting MusB promoter (FIG. 4A) is 245 bp in length and has preferential activity in cultured VSMCs compared to cardiac cells. Unlike SM22α, the MusB promoter does not have a perfect CArG box element (CCWWWWWWGG, where W=A or T) directed by the serum response factor that is evolutionarily conserved for SMC-specific promoter activity. However, MusB has an imperfect CArG box (CCAAATTTAG, where A should be G), and there are 1216 permutations of the CArG box that are regarded as functional. Indeed, 24 hours after transfection of the luciferase gene with the MusB promoter, primary cultures of rat aortic VSMCs show about 20-fold more activity than primary cultures of neonatal rat cardiac myocytes (FIG. 4B). Because of the high activity of the MusB promoter in VSMCs, and the paucity of small, smooth muscle-specific promoters available for AAV-mediated delivery of target genes to the vasculature, the efficacy of the two smooth muscle-specific promoters, SM22α and MusB, will be compared for AAV transduction of genes into arterial VSMCs. For clarity, and to avoid confusion of SM22α with BKα in shared constructs, the SM22α promoter is referred to only as “SM22” in the remaining text.

Four AAV plasmid constructs containing the truncated SM22 promoter or the new MusB promoter and the mouse BKα gene or the gene for green fluorescent protein (GFP) were prepared (FIG. 4C). The large size (3.5 kb) of the BKα gene approaches the insert gene size limit for the AAV vector. Thus GFP requires a separate construct for studies designed to evaluate gene expression conferred by AAV/SM22 or AAV/MusB. From these plasmids, AAV (serotype 2) virus stocks were generated and the titer estimated at ˜109 virus particles per milliliter (vp/ml) by quantitative PCR. These constructs and similar virus stocks will be referred to by promoter and gene, for example, AAV/SM22BKα. A myc tag may also be added to the AAV/SM22-BKα and AAV/MusB-BKα constructs to enhance detection of the BKα protein in the arterial wall and in single VSMCs.

Example 3

The SM22 and MusB Promoters Drive Gene Expression in Arterial VSMCs

In early experiments, evidence was obtained that the SM22 promoter can achieve long-term gene expression in arterial VSMCs in vivo. As a prelude to these studies, A7r5 cells (an embryonic rat aortic VSMC line) were transfected with plasmids encoding SM22-GFP and MusB-GFP (2 μg/105 cells) to verify that both promoters have activity in these cultured VSMCs. Indeed, GFP associated with both plasmids was detected at 72 hours after transfection at qualitatively similar levels of expression in the A7r5 cells (FIG. 5A). Subsequently, we injected 1011 vp/kg AAV/SM22-GFP into the tail vein of control C57BL/6J adult mice to determine (as a starting point) if our AAV construct, using the best characterized smooth muscle-specific promoter, SM22, could achieve long-lasting gene expression in VSMCs in vivo. Indeed, 10-μm frozen sections of the aorta collected 9 weeks after the mice were injected with AAV/SM22-GFP showed clear GFP expression in the VSMCs composing the aortic medial layers (FIG. 5B, white arrows), which are situated between the elastic fibers that show high auto fluorescence (FIG. 5B, yellow arrowheads). To our knowledge, this is the first use of a smooth muscle-specific promoter to enact long-lasting expression of a gene in VSMCs using AAV-mediated delivery. Standard PCR of the cDNA using a primer pair designed to amplify only the BKα transgene but not the endogenous BKα gene (forward primer: TTCGGCTTGGGTCGACTCTTAGAA (SEQ ID NO:10) reverse primer: TATGATGAGCGCATCCATCTTGGG (SEQ ID NO:11) revealed that only mesenteric arteries from AAV/SM22-BKα-injected mice showed detectible levels of message. The BKα message was not transcribed in heart or liver, confirming that SM22 does not exert promoter activity in nonvascular tissues. An agarose gel comparing transduced BKα amplified product corresponding to mRNA from AAV/MusB-GFP and AAV/SM22-BKα is shown in FIG. 2.

The pore-forming structure of the BK channel in VSMCs is presumed to represent a tetramer composed of four α subunits, which associate with ancillary β1 subunits to confer Ca2+ sensitivity to the channel complex. Thus, both subunits (α and β1) are thought to be required for normal physiological function. Since we propose to deliver only the BKα subunit to VSMCs by AAV, it is possible that the availability of β3 will limit the number of fully functional BK channels. Thus, one goal of this experiment was to verify that AAV delivery of BKα enhances BK channel-mediated K+ current in the arterial VSMCs of the treated animals, and to confirm that BK channels show normal Ca2+-dependent activation indicative of α4β4 complex formation. In this regard, arterial BKα DNA, mRNA and protein expression was evaluated. In Western blots, the BK subunit is detected as a 125 kD band (FIG. 6A).

BK channel current in VSMCs from the mouse mesentery, a vascular bed involved in blood pressure regulation will be scrutinized. First, we will characterize the whole-cell properties of BK current in VSMCs of 2nd order mesenteric arteries from untreated C57BL/6J mice. After profiling the density and properties of the native BK channels, the BK current in the VSMCs of hypertensive mice treated with AAV/SM22-BKα or AAV/MusB-BKα antihypertensive therapy will be examined using previously published protocols. A sample protocol is shown in FIG. 6B in a freshly isolated mesenteric VSMC from an untreated C57BL/6J mouse. Voltage-elicited K+ current (left trace) was reduced by the well characterized BK channel blocker, iberiotoxin (Ibtx, middle trace). Other voltage-elicited K+ channel currents also were evident as the Ibtx-resistant residual current. Digital subtraction was used to isolate the Ibtx-sensitive component of BK current from total K+ current (right trace). It is expected that AAV delivery of BKα will increase the density of Ibtx-sensitive current attributed to the BK channel, and further patch-clamp studies will evaluate if the transduced BK channel retains normal voltage and Ca2+-sensitivity.

Studies were initiated to confirm that the MusB-BKα and SM22-BKα plasmids encode functional BK channels in VSMCs. For these studies, a VSMC line was identified that did not express native BK channels. Notably, a standard non-smooth muscle expression systems (ie, HEK 293) could not be used, because MusB-BKα and SM22-BKα plasmids contain a smooth muscle-specific promoter. Fortunately, screening efforts revealed that A7r5 cells do not express voltage-gated K+ channels. Indeed, the BKα and β1 transcripts that are readily detected in freshly isolated mesenteric arteries (FIG. 7A, MA) are not expressed in A7r5 cells, a neonatal rat aortic cell line. A7r5 cells also lack voltage-dependent K+ current (n=9) (FIG. 7B). It has been observed that patch-cell-specific promoters show activity in VSMCs that appears to result in functional channel proteins.

Example 4

Evaluation of BK Channel Dilator Function In Vitro and In Vivo

To verify that the antihypertensive effect of BKα gene delivery is associated with an enhanced dilator influence of BK channels, in vitro and in vivo dilator assays will be used. Studies will focus on the mesenteric circulation, a vascular bed that offers a number of advantages. First, the mesenteric circulation plays a central role in blood pressure regulation. Second, the web of mesenteric arcade arteries provides enough vascular tissue from only several mice for DNA, RNA and protein analyses, vessel reactivity studies, and patch-clamp studies. Third, the mesenteric circulation is accessible for intravital video microscopy (IVVM) to assess BK channel-mediated vasodilation in vivo in an anesthetized mouse. Thus, although there is the capability to study other vascular beds if the need arises the mesenteric circulation is conceptually and technically suited to the planned studies. In vitro vascular reactivity studies will use isolated, cannulated mesenteric arteries (FIG. 8A). The dilator function of the BK channel will be evaluated at 3 levels of intramural pressure (60 mm Hg, 100 mm Hg, and 140 mm Hg). A sample protocol in a mouse mesenteric artery perfused at 100 mm Hg is shown in FIG. 8B. After equilibration to establish resting tone (panel 1; internal diameter=127 μm), maximal depolarization-induced contraction was elicited by 60 mmol/L KCl (panel 2). After washout of KCl to re-establish resting diameter (panel 3), iberiotoxin (100 nmol/L Ibtx) was added to block BK channel-mediated dilation. The loss of BK channel-mediated vasodilation caused a diameter reduction that was equal to 16% of the maximal contraction to KCl (panel 4). These data suggest that the BK channel contributes only a small dilator influence to the resting tone of small mesenteric arteries at physiological perfusion pressures. The vasoconstrictor response to Ibtx is expected to be accentuated in arteries of mice transduced with the BKα gene. Similarly, IVVM will be used to compare the vasodilator influence of the BK channel between the mesenteric circulations of control mice and mice treated with AAV/SM22-BKα or AAV/MusB-BKα. In these mice, the mesentery is pulled through a midline incision and placed in an observation chamber on the stage of an upright microscope for on-line recording of arterial diameters in vivo (FIG. 8C). The level of BK channel-mediated vasodilation can be assessed using iberiotoxin as described above for the perfused artery preparation. A similar technique has been used for recording in situ membrane potential and diameters in the mesenteric circulation of anesthetized rats and also for monitoring the reactivity of the renal circulation in mice. This technique will be adapted to the mouse mesenteric circulation, as shown in FIG. 7C.

Example 5

Mouse Models of Hypertension and Biotelemetry Measurement

To evaluate the antihypertensive effect of AAV-mediated delivery of BKα, two mouse models of hypertension will be used. Surgical procedures will be performed, and heart rate and blood pressure will be monitored using biotelemetry. Chronic hypertension will be induced in C57BL/6J mice by implanting osmotic minipumps for infusion of angiotensin (Ang II, 2 μg/kg/min) or norepinephrine (NE, 4 μg/kg/min). Thus, we will evaluate the therapeutic effect of AAV/SM22-BKα or AAV/MusB-BKα gene delivery in mice with two forms of hypertension. The blood pressure profile of our Ang II-infused C57BL/6J mice includes a resting mean arterial pressure of 110 mm Hg, which rapidly rises over one week and is maintained at 150 to 160 mm Hg by Ang II infusion (FIG. 9A). The osmotic minipumps last up to six weeks, but a second pump can be inserted to maintain the hypertension and permit evaluation of long-term antihypertensive therapies (FIG. 9B, arrow, top trace). The increase in blood pressure is reversible, and returns to normal if the Ang II pump is replaced with a saline pump (FIG. 9B, arrow, lower trace). Similar levels of chronic hypertension can be established by infusing 4 μg/kg/min NE (FIG. 9C).

Example 6

AAV/SM22-BKα Reverses Ang II-Induced Hypertension

In the typical clinical situation a patient's blood pressure is elevated at diagnosis, and the therapeutic value of an antihypertensive treatment relies on its ability to normalize the elevated pressure without unwanted side effects. To explore this question, mice were instrumented with telemetry transmitters for two weeks to obtain baseline blood pressure recordings. Subsequently, Ang II-minipumps were implanted to induce hypertension. At 7 and 10 days after the start of Ang II infusion when blood pressure was elevated (mean arterial pressure ˜140 mm Hg), AAV/SM22-GFP or AAV/SM22-BKα were injected (2 tail vein injections; 5×1010 vp/kg; 3 days apart) into two mice each. Mean arterial pressure was monitored for 6 weeks following the virus injection, with telemetry lost in one mouse injected with AAV/SM22-BKα. However, all mice in the study appeared healthy and showed similar weights for the full 6 weeks of the study. As expected, Ang II infusion established chronic hypertension in mice injected with AAV/SM22-GFP for 6 weeks (FIG. 11, top trace). In contrast, blood pressure fell continuously for 7 days in the mouse injected with AAV/SM22-BKα, and remained low for 5 weeks. The moderate rebound in blood pressure during the 2nd and 3rd weeks after AAV injection seems to correlate with the bimodal expression of AAV-transduced genes that have been observed to show a transient expression peak at 1 to 2 weeks, followed by an abating period that precedes strong continuous gene expression.

As various changes could be made in the above methods and compositions without departing from the scope of the invention, it is intended that all matter contained in the above description be interpreted as illustrative and not in a limiting sense. Unless explicitly stated to recite activities that have been done (i.e., using the past tense), illustrations and examples are not intended to be a representation that given embodiments of this invention have, or have not, been performed.