dCas9-Based Scn1a Gene Activation Restores Inhibitory Interneuron Excitability and Attenuates Seizures in Dravet Syndrome Mice

Gaia Colasante, Gabriele Lignani, Simone Brusco, Claudia Di Berardino, Jenna Carpenter, Serena Giannelli, Nicholas Valassina, Simone Bido, Raffaele Ricci, Valerio Castoldi, Silvia Marenna, Timothy Church, Luca Massimino, Giuseppe Morabito, Fabio Benfenati, Stephanie Schorge, Letizia Leocani, Dimitri M. Kullmann, Vania Broccoli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Dravet syndrome (DS) is a severe epileptic encephalopathy caused mainly by heterozygous loss-of-function mutations of the SCN1A gene, indicating haploinsufficiency as the pathogenic mechanism. Here we tested whether catalytically dead Cas9 (dCas9)-mediated Scn1a gene activation can rescue Scn1a haploinsufficiency in a mouse DS model and restore physiological levels of its gene product, the Nav1.1 voltage-gated sodium channel. We screened single guide RNAs (sgRNAs) for their ability to stimulate Scn1a transcription in association with the dCas9 activation system. We identified a specific sgRNA that increases Scn1a gene expression levels in cell lines and primary neurons with high specificity. Nav1.1 protein levels were augmented, as was the ability of wild-type immature GABAergic interneurons to fire action potentials. A similar enhancement of Scn1a transcription was achieved in mature DS interneurons, rescuing their ability to fire. To test the therapeutic potential of this approach, we delivered the Scn1a-dCas9 activation system to DS pups using adeno-associated viruses. Parvalbumin interneurons recovered their firing ability, and febrile seizures were significantly attenuated. Our results pave the way for exploiting dCas9-based gene activation as an effective and targeted approach to DS and other disorders resulting from altered gene dosage.

Original languageEnglish
JournalMolecular Therapy
Publication statusAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2019


  • activatory CRISPR
  • Dravet syndrome
  • epileptic encephalopathy
  • gene therapy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Pharmacology
  • Drug Discovery


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