Astrocytes prevent abnormal neuronal development in the fragile x mouse.
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Astrocytes are now distinguished as major regulators of neuronal growth and synaptic development. Recently, they have been identified as key players in the progression of a number of developmental disorders; however, in fragile X syndrome (FXS), the role of astrocytes is not known. Using a coculture design, we found that hippocampal neurons exhibited abnormal dendritic morphology and a decreased number of presynaptic and postsynaptic protein aggregates when they were grown on astrocytes from a fragile X mouse. Moreover, we found that normal astrocytes could prevent the development of abnormal dendrite morphology and preclude the reduction of presynaptic and postsynaptic protein clusters in neurons from a fragile X mouse. These experiments are the first to establish a role for astrocytes in the altered neurobiology of FXS. Our results support the notion that astrocytes contribute to abnormal dendrite morphology and the dysregulated synapse development in FXS.
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