Kishi N, Macklis JD. 2010. MeCP2 functions largely cell-autonomously, but also non-cell-autonomously, in neuronal maturation and dendritic arborization of cortical pyramidal neurons. Experimental neurology. 222(1):51-8. Pubmed: 20025874 DOI:10.1016/j.expneurol.2009.12.007


Rett syndrome is a human neurodevelopmental disorder presenting almost exclusively in female infants; it is the second most common cause of mental retardation in girls, after Down's syndrome. The identification in 1999 that mutation of the methyl-CpG-binding protein 2 (MECP2) gene on the X chromosome causes Rett syndrome has led to a rapid increase in understanding of the neurobiological basis of the disorder. However, much about the functional role of MeCP2, and the cellular phenotype of both patients with Rett syndrome and mutant Mecp2 mouse models, remains unclear. Building on prior work in which we demonstrated that cortical layer 2/3 pyramidal neurons (primarily interhemispheric "callosal projection neurons" (CPN)) have reduced dendritic complexity and smaller somata in Mecp2-null mice, here we investigate whether Mecp2 loss-of-function affects neuronal maturation cell-autonomously and/or non-cell-autonomously by creating physical chimeras. We transplanted Mecp2-null or wild-type (wt) E17-18 cortical neuroblasts and immature neurons from mice constitutively expressing enhanced green fluorescent protein (eGFP) into wt P2-3 mouse cortices to generate chimeric cortices. Mecp2-null layer 2/3 pyramidal neurons in both Mecp2-null and wt neonatal cortices exhibit equivalent reduction in dendritic complexity, and are smaller than transplanted wt neurons, independent of recipient environment. These results indicate that the phenotype of Mecp2-null pyramidal neurons results largely from cell-autonomous mechanisms, with additional non-cell-autonomous effects. Dysregulation of MeCP2 target genes in individual neuronal populations such as CPN is likely centrally involved in Rett syndrome pathogenesis. Our results indicating MeCP2 function in the centrally affected projection neuron population of CPN themselves provide a foundation and motivation for identification of transcriptionally regulated MeCP2 target genes in developing CPN.
Copyright 2009 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Jeffrey Macklis investigates molecular controls and mechanisms over neuron subtype specification, development, diversity, axon guidance-circuit formation, and pathology in the cerebral cortex. His lab seeks to apply developmental controls toward brain and spinal cord regeneration and directed differentiation for in vitro mechanistic modeling using human assembloids.

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