Targeted attenuation of elevated histone marks at SNCA alleviates α-synuclein in Parkinson's disease

EMBO Mol Med. 2021 Feb 5;13(2):e12188. doi: 10.15252/emmm.202012188. Epub 2021 Jan 11.


Epigenetic deregulation of α-synuclein plays a key role in Parkinson's disease (PD). Analysis of the SNCA promoter using the ENCODE database revealed the presence of important histone post-translational modifications (PTMs) including transcription-promoting marks, H3K4me3 and H3K27ac, and repressive mark, H3K27me3. We investigated these histone marks in post-mortem brains of controls and PD patients and observed that only H3K4me3 was significantly elevated at the SNCA promoter of the substantia nigra (SN) of PD patients both in punch biopsy and in NeuN-positive neuronal nuclei samples. To understand the importance of H3K4me3 in regulation of α-synuclein, we developed CRISPR/dCas9-based locus-specific H3K4me3 demethylating system where the catalytic domain of JARID1A was recruited to the SNCA promoter. This CRISPR/dCas9 SunTag-JARID1A significantly reduced H3K4me3 at SNCA promoter and concomitantly decreased α-synuclein both in the neuronal cell line SH-SY5Y and idiopathic PD-iPSC derived dopaminergic neurons. In sum, this study indicates that α-synuclein expression in PD is controlled by SNCA's histone PTMs and modulation of the histone landscape of SNCA can reduce α-synuclein expression.

Keywords: CRISPR/Cas9; Parkinson’s disease; histone post-translational modifications; iPSCs; α-synuclein.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Dopaminergic Neurons
  • Histone Code
  • Humans
  • Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells*
  • Parkinson Disease* / genetics
  • alpha-Synuclein* / genetics


  • SNCA protein, human
  • alpha-Synuclein