Infantile globoid cell leukodystrophy (GLD, Krabbe disease) is a demyelinating disease caused by the deficiency of the lysosomal enzyme galactosylceramidase (GALC) and the progressive accumulation of the toxic metabolite psychosine. We showed previously that central nervous system (CNS)-directed, adeno-associated virus (AAV)2/5-mediated gene therapy synergized with bone marrow transplantation and substrate reduction therapy (SRT) to greatly increase therapeutic efficacy in the murine model of Krabbe disease (Twitcher). However, motor deficits remained largely refractory to treatment. In the current study, we replaced AAV2/5 with an AAV2/9 vector. This single change significantly improved several endpoints primarily associated with motor function. However, nearly all (14/16) of the combination-treated Twitcher mice and all (19/19) of the combination-treated wild-type mice developed hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). 10 out of 10 tumors analyzed had AAV integrations within the Rian locus. Several animals had additional integrations within or near genes that regulate cell growth or death, are known or potential tumor suppressors, or are associated with poor prognosis in human HCC. Finally, the substrate reduction drug L-cycloserine significantly decreased the level of the pro-apoptotic ceramide 18:0. These data demonstrate the value of AAV-based combination therapy for Krabbe disease. However, they also suggest that other therapies or co-morbidities must be taken into account before AAV-mediated gene therapy is considered for human therapeutic trials.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)691-701
Number of pages11
JournalMolecular Therapy
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 3 2021


  • Krabbe disease
  • adeno-associated virus
  • bone marrow transplantation
  • gene therapy
  • hepatocellular carcinoma


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