McCormack, A. L., Mak, S. K., Henderson, J. M., Bumcrot, D., Farrer, M. J., & Di Monte, D. A. (2010). α-synuclein suppression by targeted small interfering RNA in the primate substantia nigra. PloS one, 5(8), e12122.
The protein α-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 α-synuclein burden. Here, feasibility and safety of α-synuclein suppression were evaluated by treating monkeys with small interfering RNA (siRNA) directed against α-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 α-synuclein mRNA and protein in the infused (left) vs. untreated (right) hemisphere and revealed a significant 40–50% suppression of α-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 α-synuclein. Infusion with α-synuclein siRNA, while lowering α-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-α-synuclein intervention in the primate substantia nigra and support further development of RNA interference-based therapeutics.