Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Autism and Neuroscience - Inhibition of p21-activated kinase rescues symptoms of fragile X syndrome in mice

What follows is the open access summary of the report pointing to a possible therapy for treating autism as submitted by one of the report's lead authors Susumu Tonegawa. The report itself is also open access and can be downloaded by clicking a link at the PNAS site:


Inhibition of p21-activated kinase rescues symptoms of fragile X syndrome in mice

( cortical long-term potentiation | spine morphology | trace fear conditioning | autism )
Mansuo L. Hayashi *{dagger}, B. S. Shankaranarayana Rao {ddagger}, Jin-Soo Seo {sect}, Han-Saem Choi {sect}, Bridget M. Dolan *, Se-Young Choi {sect}, Sumantra Chattarji ¶, and Susumu Tonegawa *||

*The Picower Institute for Learning and Memory, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, RIKEN-Massachusetts Institute of Technology Neuroscience Research Center, and Departments of Biology and Brain and Cognitive Sciences, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA 02139; {ddagger}Department of Neurophysiology, National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences, Bangalore 560029, India; {sect}Department of Physiology, College of Dentistry, Seoul National University, Seoul 110-749 Korea; and ¶National Center for Biological Sciences, Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Bangalore 560065, India

Contributed by Susumu Tonegawa, May 29, 2007 (sent for review May 21, 2007)

Fragile X syndrome (FXS), the most commonly inherited form of mental retardation and autism, is caused by transcriptional silencing of the fragile X mental retardation 1 (FMR1) gene and consequent loss of the fragile X mental retardation protein. Despite growing evidence suggesting a role of specific receptors and biochemical pathways in FXS pathogenesis, an effective therapeutic method has not been developed. Here, we report that abnormalities in FMR1 knockout (KO) mice, an animal model of FXS, are ameliorated, at least partially, at both cellular and behavioral levels, by an inhibition of the catalytic activity of p21-activated kinase (PAK), a kinase known to play a critical role in actin polymerization and dendritic spine morphogenesis. Greater spine density and elongated spines in the cortex, morphological synaptic abnormalities commonly observed in FXS, are at least partially restored by postnatal expression of a dominant negative (dn) PAK transgene in the forebrain. Likewise, the deficit in cortical long-term potentiation observed in FMR1 KO mice is fully restored by the dnPAK transgene. Several behavioral abnormalities associated with FMR1 KO mice, including those in locomotor activity, stereotypy, anxiety, and trace fear conditioning are also ameliorated, partially or fully, by the dnPAK transgene. Finally, we demonstrate a direct interaction between PAK and fragile X mental retardation protein in vitro. Overall, our results demonstrate the genetic rescue of phenotypes in a FXS mouse model and suggest that the PAK signaling pathway, including the catalytic activity of PAK, is a novel intervention site for development of an FXS and autism therapy.

Author contributions: M.L.H., S.-Y.C., S.C., and S.T. designed research; M.L.H., B.S.S.R., J.-S.S., H.-S.C., and B.M.D. performed research; M.L.H., B.S.S.R., and S.-Y.C. analyzed data; and M.L.H., B.M.D., S.C., and S.T. wrote the paper.

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Freely available online through the PNAS open access option.

{dagger}Present address: Department of Neuroscience Drug Discovery, Merck Research Laboratories, Boston, MA 02115.

||To whom correspondence should be addressed.
Susumu Tonegawa, E-mail: tonegawa@mit.edu


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