Alpha-synuclein suppression by targeted small interfering RNA in the primate substantia nigra

PLoS One. 2010 Aug 11;5(8):e12122. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0012122.


The protein alpha-synuclein is involved in the pathogenesis of Parkinson's disease and other neurodegenerative disorders. Its toxic potential appears to be enhanced by increased protein expression, providing a compelling rationale for therapeutic strategies aimed at reducing neuronal alpha-synuclein burden. Here, feasibility and safety of alpha-synuclein suppression were evaluated by treating monkeys with small interfering RNA (siRNA) directed against alpha-synuclein. The siRNA molecule was chemically modified to prevent degradation by exo- and endonucleases and directly infused into the left substantia nigra. Results compared levels of alpha-synuclein mRNA and protein in the infused (left) vs. untreated (right) hemisphere and revealed a significant 40-50% suppression of alpha-synuclein expression. These findings could not be attributable to non-specific effects of siRNA infusion since treatment of a separate set of animals with luciferase-targeting siRNA produced no changes in alpha-synuclein. Infusion with alpha-synuclein siRNA, while lowering alpha-synuclein expression, had no overt adverse consequences. In particular, it did not cause tissue inflammation and did not change (i) the number and phenotype of nigral dopaminergic neurons, and (ii) the concentrations of striatal dopamine and its metabolites. The data represent the first evidence of successful anti-alpha-synuclein intervention in the primate substantia nigra and support further development of RNA interference-based therapeutics.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Base Sequence
  • Dopamine / metabolism
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation / genetics
  • Gene Knockdown Techniques / methods*
  • Male
  • RNA, Small Interfering / genetics*
  • Saimiri*
  • Substantia Nigra / metabolism*
  • alpha-Synuclein / deficiency*
  • alpha-Synuclein / genetics*


  • RNA, Small Interfering
  • alpha-Synuclein
  • Dopamine