EEA1 restores homeostatic synaptic plasticity in hippocampal neurons from Rett syndrome mice

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Rett syndrome is a neurodevelopmental disorder caused by loss-of-function mutations in MECP2, the gene encoding the transcriptional regulator methyl-CpG-binding protein 2 (MeCP2). Deletion of Mecp2 in mice results in an imbalance of synaptic excitation and inhibition in hippocampal pyramidal neurons, which affects ‘Hebbian’ long-term synaptic plasticity. Since the excitatory–inhibitory balance is maintained by homeostatic mechanisms, we examined the role of MeCP2 in homeostatic synaptic plasticity (HSP) at excitatory synapses. Negative feedback HSP, also known as synaptic scaling, maintains the global synaptic strength of individual neurons in response to sustained alterations in neuronal activity. Hippocampal neurons from Mecp2 knockout (KO) mice do not show the characteristic homeostatic scaling up of the amplitude of miniature excitatory postsynaptic currents (mEPSCs) and of synaptic levels of the GluA1 subunit of AMPA-type glutamate receptors after 48 h silencing with the Na+ channel blocker tetrodotoxin. This deficit in HSP is bidirectional because Mecp2 KO neurons also failed to scale down mEPSC amplitudes and GluA1 synaptic levels after 48 h blockade of type A GABA receptor (GABAAR)-mediated inhibition with bicuculline. Consistent with the role of synaptic trafficking of AMPA-type of glutamate receptors in HSP, Mecp2 KO neurons have lower levels of early endosome antigen 1 (EEA1), a protein involved in AMPA-type glutamate receptor endocytosis. In addition, expression of EEA1 in Mecp2 KO neurons reduced mEPSC amplitudes to wild-type levels, and restored synaptic scaling down of mEPSC amplitudes after 48 h blockade of GABAAR-mediated inhibition with bicuculline. The identification of a molecular deficit in HSP in Mecp2 KO neurons provides potentially novel targets of intervention for improving hippocampal function in Rett syndrome individuals.

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