Oxidative stress-induced aberrant G9a activation disturbs RE-1-containing neuron-specific genes expression, leading to degeneration in human SH-SY5Y neuroblastoma cells

Korean J Physiol Pharmacol. 2021 Jan 1;25(1):51-58. doi: 10.4196/kjpp.2021.25.1.51.


Oxidative stress-induced neurodegeneration is one of several etiologies underlying neurodegenerative disease. In the present study, we investigated the functional role of histone methyltransferase G9a in oxidative stress-induced degeneration in human SH-SY5Y neuroblastoma cells. Cell viability significantly decreased on H2O2 treatment; however, treatment with the G9a inhibitor BIX01294 partially attenuated this effect. The expression of neuron-specific genes also decreased in H2O2- treated cells; however, it recovered on G9a inhibition. H2O2-treated cells showed high levels of H3K9me2 (histone H3 demethylated at the lysine 9 residue), which is produced by G9a activation; BIX01294 treatment reduced aberrant activation of G9a. H3K9me2 occupancy of the RE-1 site in neuron-specific genes was significantly increased in H2O2-treated cells, whereas it was decreased in BIX01294-treated cells. The differentiation of H2O2-treated cells also recovered on G9a inhibition by BIX01294. Consistent results were observed when used another G9a inhibitor UCN0321. These results demonstrate that oxidative stress induces aberrant activation of G9a, which disturbs the expression of neuron-specific genes and progressively mediates neuronal cell death. Moreover, a G9a inhibitor can lessen aberrant G9a activity and prevent neuronal damage. G9a inhibition may therefore contribute to the prevention of oxidative stress-induced neurodegeneration.

Keywords: Epigenetics; Histone methyltransferase; Neurodegenerative disease; Oxidative stress; Transcription factors.