A Loss of the Fragile X mental retardation protein alters the spatial and temporal expression of glutamate receptors in the mouse brain




Majaess, Namat-Maria

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Fragile X Syndrome (FXS) is the leading cause of inherited intellectual disability. The disorder is caused by a trinucleotide expansion that silences the Fragile X Mental Retardation 1 (Fmr1) gene resulting in the loss of its protein product, the Fragile X Mental Retardation Protein (FMRP). FXS patients show broad clinical phenotypes including intellectual disability, as well as a number of cognitive and behavioral problems. The lack of FMRP is believed to be the direct cause of the deficits seen in FXS patients. FMRP is an RNA-binding protein that is expressed in the brain and testes. This protein is believed to form a messenger ribonucleoprotein complex with mRNAs in the nucleus and subsequently export them to polyribosomes in the cytoplasm, therefore influencing translation of its bound mRNAs. Importantly, FMRP has long been suspected to be involved in synaptic plasticity due to its ability to bind several mRNAs that encode for proteins important in synaptic plasticity. Such proteins include the GluN1, GluN2A and GluN2B subunits of the N-methyl-D- aspartate receptor (NMDAR). FMRP is expressed in the hippocampus, a region of the brain involved in learning and memory processes. Recently, impaired NMDAR functioning in the dentate gyrus (DG) subregion of the hippocampus has been observed in Fmr1 knockout (-/y) mice. This impairment also resulted in reduction in long-term potentiation (LTP) and long-term depression (LTD) of synaptic efficacy, two biological models of learning and memory. In the present study, I focused on the levels of the NMDAR GluN1, GluN2B and Glu2B subunits in order to determine the synaptic plasticity alterations seen in the DG of Fmr1-/y mice. Using Western blotting, I found that there is a decrease in the GluN1, GluN2A and GluN2B subunits in the DG of young adult Fmr1-/y mice, indicating that these mice have significantly lower amounts of total NMDARs. These results could explain the altered LTP and LTD seen in Fmr1-/y mice at the molecular level and might contribute to the intellectual impairments seen in these KO mice. NMDARs appear to be important in the development and maturation of synapses. The GluN2A and GluN2B subunits are developmentally regulated, where GluN2B is predominantly expressed early in development and GluN2A in the adult brain. A dysregulation of GluN2A and GluN2B subunits has been proposed to affect the maturation and formation of synapses. Intriguingly, FMRP is also believed to play a functional role in early brain development. Thus, this study also focused on the developmental expression of the GluN1, GluN2A and GluN2B subunits in the DG, Cornu Ammonis, prefrontal cortex and cerebellum of Fmr1-/y mice, all of which are brain regions implicated in FXS. We found that the developmental expression of these subunits is altered in Fmr1-/y mice in specific brain regions. Together, these results demonstrate that the loss of FMRP differentially affects GluN1, GluN2A and GluN2B subunit expression both developmentally and spatially, further implicating NMDARs in the pathophysiology of FXS.



Fragile X Syndrome, Fmr1 KO mouse, NMDA receptors, AMPA receptors, Dentate gyrus, Cornu Ammonis, Prefrontal cortex, Cerebellum, Development, Protein levels