Research Article

β2-Adrenoreceptor is a regulator of the α-synuclein gene driving risk of Parkinson’s disease

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Science  01 Sep 2017:
Vol. 357, Issue 6354, pp. 891-898
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaf3934

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Elucidating the risk of Parkinson's disease

High expression of the α-synuclein gene (SNCA) is a risk factor for Parkinson's disease (PD), but certain drugs may mitigate this risk. Mittal et al. ran a small-molecule screen to identify compounds that regulate levels of SNCA expression and found that several β2-adrenoreceptor (β2AR) agonists reduced them (see the Perspective by Snyder). These compounds modulated epigenetic marks at the SNCA gene, effectively suppressing SNCA transcription. The authors looked at the pharmaceutical history of more than 4 million Norwegians over an 11-year period and found a reduced risk of PD among those that were taking one of the β2AR agonists for other medical problems.

Science, this issue p. 891; see also p. 869

Abstract

Copy number mutations implicate excess production of α-synuclein as a possibly causative factor in Parkinson’s disease (PD). Using an unbiased screen targeting endogenous gene expression, we discovered that the β2-adrenoreceptor (β2AR) is a regulator of the α-synuclein gene (SNCA). β2AR ligands modulate SNCA transcription through histone 3 lysine 27 acetylation of its promoter and enhancers. Over 11 years of follow-up in 4 million Norwegians, the β2AR agonist salbutamol, a brain-penetrant asthma medication, was associated with reduced risk of developing PD (rate ratio, 0.66; 95% confidence interval, 0.58 to 0.76). Conversely, a β2AR antagonist correlated with increased risk. β2AR activation protected model mice and patient-derived cells. Thus, β2AR is linked to transcription of α-synuclein and risk of PD in a ligand-specific fashion and constitutes a potential target for therapies.

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