Cell-Type Specific Changes in DNA Methylation of SNCA Intron 1 in Synucleinopathy Brains

Jeffrey Gu, Julio Barrera, Young Yun, Susan K. Murphy, Thomas G. Beach, Randy L. Woltjer, Geidy E. Serrano, Boris Kantor, Ornit Chiba-Falek

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Parkinson’s disease (PD) and dementia with Lewy body (DLB) are the most common synucleinopathies. SNCA gene is a major genetic risk factor for these diseases group, and dysregulation of its expression has been implicated in the genetic etiologies of several synucleinopathies. DNA methylation at CpG island (CGI) within SNCA intron 1 has been suggested as a regulatory mechanism of SNCA expression, and changes in methylation levels at this region were associated with PD and DLB. However, the role of DNA methylation in the regulation of SNCA expression in a cell-type specific manner and its contribution to the pathogenesis of PD and DLB remain poorly understood, and the data are conflicting. Here, we employed a bisulfite pyrosequencing technique to profile the DNA methylation across SNCA intron 1 CGI in PD and DLB compared to age- and sex-matched normal control subjects. We analyzed homogenates of bulk post-mortem frozen frontal cortex samples and a subset of neuronal and glia nuclei sorted by the fluorescence-activated nuclei sorting (FANS) method. Bulk brain tissues showed no significant difference in the overall DNA methylation across SNCA intron 1 CGI region between the neuropathological groups. Sorted neuronal nuclei from PD frontal cortex showed significant lower levels of DNA methylation at this region compared to normal controls, but no differences between DLB and control, while sorted glia nuclei exhibited trends of decreased overall DNA methylation in DLB only. In conclusion, our data suggested disease-dependent cell-type specific differential DNA methylation within SNCA intron 1 CGI. These changes may affect SNCA dysregulation that presumably mediates disease-specific risk. Our results can be translated into the development of the SNCA intron 1 CGI region as an attractive therapeutics target for gene therapy in patients who suffer from synucleinopathies due to SNCA dysregulation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number652226
JournalFrontiers in Neuroscience
StatePublished - Apr 28 2021


  • DNA methylation
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • bisulfite pyrosequencing
  • dementia with Lewy body
  • fluorescence-activated nuclei sorting
  • α-synuclein gene (SNCA)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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