Sodium valproate increases activity of the sirtuin pathway resulting in beneficial effects for spinocerebellar ataxia-3 in vivo

Maxinne Watchon, Luan Luu, Katherine J. Robinson, Kristy C. Yuan, Alana De Luca, Hannah J. Suddull, Madelaine C. Tym, Gilles J. Guillemin, Nicholas J. Cole, Garth A. Nicholson, Roger S. Chung, Albert Lee, Angela S. Laird

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Machado-Joseph disease (MJD, also known as spinocerebellar ataxia type 3) is a fatal neurodegenerative disease that impairs control and coordination of movement. Here we tested whether treatment with the histone deacetylase inhibitor sodium valproate (valproate) prevented a movement phenotype that develops in larvae of a transgenic zebrafish model of the disease. We found that treatment with valproate improved the swimming of the MJD zebrafish, affected levels of acetylated histones 3 and 4, but also increased expression of polyglutamine expanded human ataxin-3. Proteomic analysis of protein lysates generated from the treated and untreated MJD zebrafish also predicted that valproate treatment had activated the sirtuin longevity signaling pathway and this was confirmed by findings of increased SIRT1 protein levels and sirtuin activity in valproate treated MJD zebrafish and HEK293 cells expressing ataxin-3 84Q, respectively. Treatment with resveratrol (another compound known to activate the sirtuin pathway), also improved swimming in the MJD zebrafish. Co-treatment with valproate alongside EX527, a SIRT1 activity inhibitor, prevented induction of autophagy by valproate and the beneficial effects of valproate on the movement in the MJD zebrafish, supporting that they were both dependent on sirtuin activity. These findings provide the first evidence of sodium valproate inducing activation of the sirtuin pathway. Further, they indicate that drugs that target the sirtuin pathway, including sodium valproate and resveratrol, warrant further investigation for the treatment of MJD and related neurodegenerative diseases.

Original languageEnglish
Article number128
Pages (from-to)1-16
Number of pages16
JournalMolecular Brain
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 20 Aug 2021

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2021. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • Machado−Joseph disease
  • Spinocerebellar ataxia−3
  • Zebrafsh
  • Neurodegeneration
  • Sodium valproate
  • Valproic acid
  • Polyglutamine


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