Mutations in the methyl-CpG binding protein 2 (MECP2) gene cause the autism spectrum disorder Rett Syndrome (RTT). To understand the pathogenesis of RTT, we previously developed and characterized a mouse model recapitulating an RTT-associated missense mutation, MeCP2 T158A. We found that mice with T158A mutation show similar RTT-like phenotypes to that of Mecp2-null mice. T158A mutation decreases the binding of MeCP2 to methylated DNA and reduces MeCP2 protein stability. Mice with MeCP2 dysfunction also show age-dependent impairment of neuronal event-related potentials (ERPs) indicative of disrupted neural circuitry. Moreover, our ongoing work supports a role of MeCP2 in modulation of gene transcription and dendritic development in a cell-type specific manner. Together, these findings lead to a new series of questions pertaining to the pathogenic mechanisms of RTT. We propose to address them in the following specific aims: 1) To define the role of methyl-DNA binding of MeCP2 in the etiology of RTT-like phenotypes;2) To dissect the role of MeCP2 in different neuronal cells regulating information processing;and 3) To investigate the molecular mechanisms by which MeCP2 modulates cell type-specific neuronal function. With the combined genetic, genomic, behavioral and neurophysiological approaches, we hope to not only reveal novel insight into the pathogenic mechanisms underlying RTT, but also to expedite the development of mechanism-based therapeutics that are focused on MeCP2 methyl-DNA binding and specific neuronal types. Moreover, our proposed study will provide the research community at large with innovative tools and resources to investigate the epigenetic mechanisms underlying a variety of biological processes and diseases.

Public Health Relevance

Rett Syndrome is caused by mutations in the X-linked gene encoding methyl-CpG binding protein 2 (MeCP2). Despite the known genetic cause, the pathogenic mechanisms of Rett Syndrome are not well understood, thus limiting the development of diagnosis and treatment options. We previously developed and characterized a mouse model carrying a Rett Syndrome-associated mutation on MeCP2. We found that these mice show similar Rett Syndrome-like symptoms and defects in neural network activity. Here we propose to investigate the function of MeCP2 in the proper development of neural network and to study the molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying the neuron cell type-specific function of MeCP2. A more precise understanding of the pathogenesis of Rett Syndrome will open the way to develop novel therapeutics to treat Rett Syndrome and other related autism spectrum disorders. Moreover, the experimental tools and resources developed by this proposal will facilitate the epigenomic research in many biological processes and diseases.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS)
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Molecular Neurogenetics Study Section (MNG)
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Mamounas, Laura
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University of Pennsylvania
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