Purpose: Bestrophinopathies are a group of untreatable inherited retinal dystrophies caused by mutations in the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) Cl− channel bestrophin 1. We tested whether sodium phenylbutyrate (4PBA) could rescue the function of mutant bestrophin 1 associated with autosomal dominant and recessive disease. We then sought analogues of 4PBA with increased potency and determined the mode of action for 4PBA and a lead compound 2-naphthoxyacetic acid (2-NOAA). Lastly, we tested if 4PBA and 2-NOAA could functionally rescue bestrophin 1 function in RPE generated from induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC-RPEs) derived from patients with a dominant or recessive bestrophinopathy.
Methods: Global and plasma membrane expression was determined by Western blot and immunofluorescent microscopy, respectively. The effect of 4PBA and 2-NOAA on transcription was measured by quantitative RT-PCR and the rate of protein turnover by cycloheximide chase and Western blot. Channel function was measured by whole-cell patch clamp.
Results: 4PBA and 2-NOAA can rescue the global and membrane expression of mutant bestrophin 1 associated with autosomal dominant disease (Best vitelliform macular dystrophy [BVMD]) and autosome recessive bestrophinopathy (ARB), and these small molecules have different modes of action. Both 4PBA and 2-NOAA significantly increased the channel function of mutant BVMD and ARB bestrophin 1 in HEK293T and iPSC-RPE cells derived from patients with BVMD and ARB. For 4PBA, the increased mutant channel function in BVMD and ARB iPSC-RPE was equal to that of wild-type iPSC-RPE bestrophin 1.
Conclusions: The restoration of bestrophin 1 function in patient-derived RPE confirms the US Food and Drug Administration–approved drug 4PBA as a promising therapeutic treatment for bestrophinopathies.