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Nat Rev Neurol. 2015 May;11(5):266-79. doi: 10.1038/nrneurol.2015.57. Epub 2015 Apr 21.

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis: mechanisms and therapeutics in the epigenomic era.

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Department of Neurology, University of Michigan, 1500 East Medical Centre Drive, 1914 Taubman Centre SPC 5316, Ann Arbor, MI 48109, USA.
The A. Alfred Taubman Medical Research Institute, University of Michigan, 109 Zina Pitcher Place, 5017 A. Alfred Taubman Biomedical Science Research Building, Ann Arbor, MI 48109, USA.


Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a progressive neurodegenerative disease of the motor neurons, which results in weakness and atrophy of voluntary skeletal muscles. Treatments do not modify the disease trajectory effectively, and only modestly improve survival. A complex interaction between genes, environmental exposure and impaired molecular pathways contributes to pathology in patients with ALS. Epigenetic mechanisms control the hereditary and reversible regulation of gene expression without altering the basic genetic code. Aberrant epigenetic patterns-including abnormal microRNA (miRNA) biogenesis and function, DNA modifications, histone remodeling, and RNA editing-are acquired throughout life and are influenced by environmental factors. Thus, understanding the molecular processes that lead to epigenetic dysregulation in patients with ALS might facilitate the discovery of novel therapeutic targets and biomarkers that could reduce diagnostic delay. These achievements could prove crucial for successful disease modification in patients with ALS. We review the latest findings regarding the role of miRNA modifications and other epigenetic mechanisms in ALS, and discuss their potential as therapeutic targets.

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