LSD1: more than demethylation of histone lysine residues

Exp Mol Med. 2020 Dec;52(12):1936-1947. doi: 10.1038/s12276-020-00542-2. Epub 2020 Dec 14.


Lysine-specific histone demethylase 1 (LSD1) represents the first example of an identified nuclear protein with histone demethylase activity. In particular, it plays a special role in the epigenetic regulation of gene expression, as it removes methyl groups from mono- and dimethylated lysine 4 and/or lysine 9 on histone H3 (H3K4me1/2 and H3K9me1/2), behaving as a repressor or activator of gene expression, respectively. Moreover, it has been recently found to demethylate monomethylated and dimethylated lysine 20 in histone H4 and to contribute to the balance of several other methylated lysine residues in histone H3 (i.e., H3K27, H3K36, and H3K79). Furthermore, in recent years, a plethora of nonhistone proteins have been detected as targets of LSD1 activity, suggesting that this demethylase is a fundamental player in the regulation of multiple pathways triggered in several cellular processes, including cancer progression. In this review, we analyze the molecular mechanism by which LSD1 displays its dual effect on gene expression (related to the specific lysine target), placing final emphasis on the use of pharmacological inhibitors of its activity in future clinical studies to fight cancer.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't