Temporal requirements of the fragile X mental retardation protein in the regulation of synaptic structure

UMMS Affiliation

Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences; Department of Biological Sciences

Publication Date


Document Type



Life Sciences | Medicine and Health Sciences


Fragile X syndrome (FraX), caused by the loss-of-function of one gene (FMR1), is the most common inherited form of both mental retardation and autism spectrum disorders. The FMR1 product (FMRP) is an mRNA-binding translation regulator that mediates activity-dependent control of synaptic structure and function. To develop any FraX intervention strategy, it is essential to define when and where FMRP loss causes the manifestation of synaptic defects, and whether the reintroduction of FMRP can restore normal synapse properties. In the Drosophila FraX model, dFMRP loss causes neuromuscular junction (NMJ) synapse over-elaboration (overgrowth, overbranching, excess synaptic boutons), accumulation of development-arrested satellite boutons, and altered neurotransmission. We used the Gene-Switch method to conditionally drive dFMRP expression to define the spatiotemporal requirements in synaptic mechanisms. Constitutive induction of targeted neuronal dFMRP at wild-type levels rescues all synaptic architectural defects in Drosophila Fmr1 (dfmr1)-null mutants, demonstrating a presynaptic requirement for synapse structuring. By contrast, presynaptic dFMRP expression does not ameliorate functional neurotransmission defects, indicating a postsynaptic dFMRP requirement. Strikingly, targeted early induction of dFMRP effects nearly complete rescue of synaptic structure defects, showing a primarily early-development role. In addition, acute dFMRP expression at maturity partially alleviates dfmr1-null defects, although rescue is not as complete as either early or constitutive dFMRP expression, showing a modest capacity for late-stage structural plasticity. We conclude that dFMRP predominantly acts early in synaptogenesis to modulate architecture, but that late dFMRP introduction at maturity can weakly compensate for early absence of dFMRP function.

DOI of Published Version



Development. 2008 Aug;135(15):2637-48. Epub 2008 Jun 25. Link to article on publisher's site

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Development (Cambridge, England)

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