Wild-type microglia arrest pathology in a mouse model of Rett syndrome.
ABSTRACT Rett syndrome is an X-linked autism spectrum disorder. The disease is characterized in most cases by mutation of the MECP2 gene, which encodes a methyl-CpG-binding protein. Although MECP2 is expressed in many tissues, the disease is generally attributed to a primary neuronal dysfunction. However, as shown recently, glia, specifically astrocytes, also contribute to Rett pathophysiology. Here we examine the role of another form of glia, microglia, in a murine model of Rett syndrome. Transplantation of wild-type bone marrow into irradiation-conditioned Mecp2-null hosts resulted in engraftment of brain parenchyma by bone-marrow-derived myeloid cells of microglial phenotype, and arrest of disease development. However, when cranial irradiation was blocked by lead shield, and microglial engraftment was prevented, disease was not arrested. Similarly, targeted expression of MECP2 in myeloid cells, driven by Lysm(cre) on an Mecp2-null background, markedly attenuated disease symptoms. Thus, through multiple approaches, wild-type Mecp2-expressing microglia within the context of an Mecp2-null male mouse arrested numerous facets of disease pathology: lifespan was increased, breathing patterns were normalized, apnoeas were reduced, body weight was increased to near that of wild type, and locomotor activity was improved. Mecp2(+/-) females also showed significant improvements as a result of wild-type microglial engraftment. These benefits mediated by wild-type microglia, however, were diminished when phagocytic activity was inhibited pharmacologically by using annexin V to block phosphatydilserine residues on apoptotic targets, thus preventing recognition and engulfment by tissue-resident phagocytes. These results suggest the importance of microglial phagocytic activity in Rett syndrome. Our data implicate microglia as major players in the pathophysiology of this devastating disorder, and suggest that bone marrow transplantation might offer a feasible therapeutic approach for it.
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ABSTRACT: MECP2, an X-linked gene encoding the epigenetic factor methyl-CpG-binding protein-2, is mutated in Rett syndrome (RTT) and aberrantly expressed in autism. Most children affected by RTT are heterozygous Mecp2-/+ females whose brain function is impaired postnatally due to MeCP2 deficiency. While prior functional investigations of MeCP2 have focused exclusively on neurons and have concluded the absence of MeCP2 in astrocytes, here we report that astrocytes express MeCP2, and MeCP2 deficiency in astrocytes causes significant abnormalities in BDNF regulation, cytokine production, and neuronal dendritic induction, effects that may contribute to abnormal neurodevelopment. In addition, we show that the MeCP2 deficiency state can progressively spread at least in part via gap junction communications between mosaic Mecp2-/+ astrocytes in a novel non-cell-autonomous mechanism. This mechanism may lead to the pronounced loss of MeCP2 observed selectively in astrocytes in mouse Mecp2-/+ brain, which is coincident with phenotypic regression characteristic of RTT. Our results suggest that astrocytes are viable therapeutic targets for RTT and perhaps regressive forms of autism.Journal of Neuroscience 05/2009; 29(16):5051-61. · 7.11 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: Rett syndrome (RTT) is an inherited neurodevelopmental disorder of females that occurs once in 10,000-15,000 births. Affected females develop normally for 6-18 months, but then lose voluntary movements, including speech and hand skills. Most RTT patients are heterozygous for mutations in the X-linked gene MECP2 (refs. 3-12), encoding a protein that binds to methylated sites in genomic DNA and facilitates gene silencing. Previous work with Mecp2-null embryonic stem cells indicated that MeCP2 is essential for mouse embryogenesis. Here we generate mice lacking Mecp2 using Cre-loxP technology. Both Mecp2-null mice and mice in which Mecp2 was deleted in brain showed severe neurological symptoms at approximately six weeks of age. Compensation for absence of MeCP2 in other tissues by MeCP1 (refs. 19,20) was not apparent in genetic or biochemical tests. After several months, heterozygous female mice also showed behavioral symptoms. The overlapping delay before symptom onset in humans and mice, despite their profoundly different rates of development, raises the possibility that stability of brain function, not brain development per se, is compromised by the absence of MeCP2.Nature Genetics 04/2001; 27(3):322-6. · 35.53 Impact Factor