Mice with an isoform-ablatingMecp2exon 1 mutation recapitulate the neurologic deficits of Rett syndrome

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Mutations in MECP2 cause the neurodevelopmental disorder Rett syndrome (RTT OMIM 312750). Alternative inclusion of MECP2/Mecp2 exon 1 with exons 3 and 4 encodes MeCP2-e1 or MeCP2-e2 protein isoforms with unique amino termini. While most MECP2 mutations are located in exons 3 and 4 thus affecting both isoforms, MECP2 exon 1 mutations but not exon 2 mutations have been identified in RTT patients, suggesting that MeCP2-e1 deficiency is sufficient to cause RTT. As expected, genetic deletion of Mecp2 exons 3 and/or 4 recapitulates RTT-like neurologic defects in mice. However, Mecp2 exon 2 knockout mice have normal neurologic function. Here, a naturally occurring MECP2 exon 1 mutation is recapitulated in a mouse model by genetic engineering. A point mutation in the translational start codon of Mecp2 exon 1, transmitted through the germline, ablates MeCP2-e1 translation while preserving MeCP2-e2 production in mouse brain. The resulting MeCP2-e1 deficient mice developed forelimb stereotypy, hindlimb clasping, excessive grooming and hypo-activity prior to death between 7 and 31 weeks. MeCP2-e1 deficient mice also exhibited abnormal anxiety, sociability and ambulation. Despite MeCP2-e1 and MeCP2-e2 sharing, 96% amino acid identity, differences were identified. A fraction of phosphorylated MeCP2-e1 differed from the bulk of MeCP2 in subnuclear localization and co-factor interaction. Furthermore, MeCP2-e1 exhibited enhanced stability compared with MeCP2-e2 in neurons. Therefore, MeCP2-e1 deficient mice implicate MeCP2-e1 as the sole contributor to RTT with non-redundant functions.

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