Molecular genetics of Rett syndrome and clinical spectrum of MECP2 mutations


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Abstract

Rett syndrome, a neurodevelopmental disorder that is a leading cause of mental retardation in females, is caused by mutations in the X-linked gene encoding methyl-CpG-binding protein 2 (MeCP2). MECP2 mutations have subsequently been identified in patients with a variety of clinical syndromes ranging from mild learning disability in females to severe mental retardation, seizures, ataxia, and sometimes neonatal encephalopathy in males. In classic Rett syndrome, genotype-phenotype correlation studies suggest that X chromosome inactivation patterns have a more prominent effect on clinical severity than the type of mutation. When the full range of phenotypes associated with MECP2 mutations is considered, however, the mutation type strongly affects disease severity. MeCP2 is a transcriptional repressor that binds to methylated CpG dinucleotides throughout the genome, and mutations in Rett syndrome patients are thought to result in at least a partial loss of function. Abnormal gene expression may thus underlie the phenotype. Discovering which genes are misregulated in the absence of functional MeCP2 is crucial for understanding the pathogenesis of this disorder and related syndromes.

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