Dendritic Arborization and Spine Dynamics Are Abnormal in the Mouse Model of MECP2 Duplication Syndrome
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MECP2 duplication syndrome is a childhood neurological disorder characterized by intellectual disability, autism, motor abnormalities, and epilepsy. The disorder is caused by duplications spanning the gene encoding methyl-CpG-binding protein-2 (MeCP2), a protein involved in the modulation of chromatin and gene expression. MeCP2 is thought to play a role in maintaining the structural integrity of neuronal circuits. Loss of MeCP2 function causes Rett syndrome and results in abnormal dendritic spine morphology and decreased pyramidal dendritic arbor complexity and spine density. The consequences of MeCP2 overexpression on dendritic pathophysiology remain unclear. We used in vivo two-photon microscopy to characterize layer 5 pyramidal neuron spine turnover and dendritic arborization as a function of age in transgenic mice expressing the human MECP2 gene at twice the normal levels of MeCP2 (Tg1; Collins et al., 2004). We found that spine density in terminal dendritic branches is initially higher in young Tg1 mice but falls below control levels after postnatal week 12, approximately correlating with the onset of behavioral symptoms. Spontaneous spine turnover rates remain high in older Tg1 animals compared with controls, reflecting the persistence of an immature state. Both spine gain and loss rates are higher, with a net bias in favor of spine elimination. Apical dendritic arbors in both simple- and complex-tufted layer 5 Tg1 pyramidal neurons have more branches of higher order, indicating that MeCP2 overexpression induces dendritic overgrowth. P70S6K was hyperphosphorylated in Tg1 somatosensory cortex, suggesting that elevated mTOR signaling may underlie the observed increase in spine turnover and dendritic growth.
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