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This article is the author's final published version in Scientific Reports, Volume 13, Issue 1, 2023, Article number 10374.

The published version is available at Copyright © The Author(s) 2023.


Proximal spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) is a leading genetic cause for infant death in the world and results from the selective loss of motor neurons in the spinal cord. SMA is a consequence of low levels of SMN protein and small molecules that can increase SMN expression are of considerable interest as potential therapeutics. Previous studies have shown that both 4-phenylbutyrate (4PBA) and trichostatin A (TSA) increase SMN expression in dermal fibroblasts derived from SMA patients. AR42 is a 4PBA-tethered TSA derivative that is a very potent histone deacetylase inhibitor. SMA patient fibroblasts were treated with either AR42, AR19 (a related analogue), 4PBA, TSA or vehicle for 5 days and then immunostained for SMN localization. AR42 as well as 4PBA and TSA increased the number of SMN-positive nuclear gems in a dose-dependent manner while AR19 did not show marked changes in gem numbers. While gem number was increased in AR42-treated SMA fibroblasts, there were no significant changes in FL-SMN mRNA or SMN protein. The neuroprotective effect of this compound was then assessed in SMNΔ7 SMA (SMN2+/+;SMNΔ7+/+;mSmn−/−) mice. Oral administration of AR42 prior to disease onset increased the average lifespan of SMNΔ7 SMA mice by ~ 27% (20.1 ± 1.6 days for AR42-treated mice vs. 15.8 ± 0.4 days for vehicle-treated mice). AR42 treatment also improved motor function in these mice. AR42 treatment inhibited histone deacetylase (HDAC) activity in treated spinal cord although it did not affect SMN protein expression in these mice. AKT and GSK3β phosphorylation were both significantly increased in SMNΔ7 SMA mouse spinal cords. In conclusion, presymptomatic administration of the HDAC inhibitor AR42 ameliorates the disease phenotype in SMNΔ7 SMA mice in a SMN-independent manner possibly by increasing AKT neuroprotective signaling.

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