Journal of Molecular Neuroscience

, Volume 64, Issue 2, pp 175–184 | Cite as

Activation of the Anti-Aging and Cognition-Enhancing Gene Klotho by CRISPR-dCas9 Transcriptional Effector Complex

  • Ci-Di Chen
  • Ella Zeldich
  • Yuexuan Li
  • Andrea Yuste
  • Carmela R. AbrahamEmail author


Multiple lines of evidence show that the anti-aging and cognition-enhancing protein Klotho fosters neuronal survival, increases the anti-oxidative stress defense, and promotes remyelination of demyelinated axons. Thus, upregulation of the Klotho gene can potentially alleviate the symptoms and/or prevent the progression of age-associated neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease and demyelinating diseases such as multiple sclerosis. Here we used a CRISPR-dCas9 complex to investigate single-guide RNA (sgRNA) targeting the Klotho promoter region for efficient transcriptional activation of the Klotho gene. We tested the sgRNAs within the − 1 to − 300 bp of the Klotho promoter region and identified two sgRNAs that can effectively enhance Klotho gene transcription. We examined the transcriptional activation of the Klotho gene using three different systems: a Firefly luciferase (FLuc) and NanoLuc luciferase (NLuc) coincidence reporter system, a NLuc knock-in in Klotho 3′-UTR using CRISPR genomic editing, and two human cell lines: neuronal SY5Y cells and kidney HK-2 cells that express Klotho endogenously. The two sgRNAs enhanced Klotho expression at both the gene and protein levels. Our results show the feasibility of gene therapy for targeting Klotho using CRISPR technology. Enhancing Klotho levels has a therapeutic potential for increasing cognition and treating age-associated neurodegenerative, demyelinating and other diseases, such as chronic kidney disease and cancer.


Alzheimer’s disease Multiple sclerosis Neuroprotection Myelin Chronic kidney disease Cancer 



clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeat




nuclease-deficient Cas9


single-guide RNA


firefly luciferase


NanoLuc luciferase


3′-untranslated region


polymerase chain reaction


Dulbecco’s modified Eagle’s Medium


phosphate buffered saline


fetal bovine serum


bovine serum albumin


sodium dodecyl sulfate polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis


phosphoglycerate kinase



We thank Dr. Jason Nasse for reading and helpful suggestions for the manuscript.

Funding information

This work was supported by NIH grants R56 AG051638, R44 AG053084 and R01 AG048927. 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018
corrected publication [February/2018]

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ci-Di Chen
    • 1
    • 2
  • Ella Zeldich
    • 1
    • 2
  • Yuexuan Li
    • 1
  • Andrea Yuste
    • 2
  • Carmela R. Abraham
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of BiochemistryBoston University School of MedicineBostonUSA
  2. 2.Klogene Therapeutics, Inc.BostonUSA
  3. 3.Department of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics, Boston University School of MedicineBostonUSA

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