"It was one of those kind of goofy 'what if' sort of things," said Richter.
To test his hypothesis, Richter developed a double knockout mouse model that lacked both the FMRP gene that caused Fragile X and the CPEB gene. When they began measuring for Fragile X pathologies what they found was almost too good to be true.
"We measured a host of factors, biochemical, morphological, electrophysiological and behavioral phenotypes," said Richter. "And we kept finding the same thing. By knocking out both the FMRP and CPEB genes we were able to restore levels of protein synthesis to normal and corrected the disease characteristics of the Fragile X mice, making them almost indistinguishable from wild type mice."
Most importantly, tests to evaluate short-term memory in the double knockout mice also showed normal results with no indications of Fragile X pathology. This suggested an experiment to test whether CPEB might be a potential therapeutic target for Fragile X to benefit patients. Richter and colleagues took adult Fragile X mice and injected a lentivirus that expresses a small RNA to knock down CPEB in the hippocampus, which is a brain region that is important for short-term memory. Subsequent tests showed improved short-term memory in these mice, indicating that at least this one characteristic of Fragile X syndrome, which is generally thought to be a developmental disorder, can be reversed in adults.
"People with Fragile X make too much protein," said Richter. "By using CPEB to recalibrate the cellular machinery that makes protein we've shown that tamping down this process has a profoundly good impact on mouse models with Fragile X. It may be th
|Contact: Jim Fessenden|
University of Massachusetts Medical School