Fragile X syndrome (FXS) is characterized by synaptic immaturity, cognitive impairment, and behavioral changes. The disorder is caused by transcriptional shutdown in neurons of the fragile X mental retardation 1 gene product, fragile X mental retardation protein. Fragile X mental retardation protein is a repressor of dendritic mRNA translation and its silencing leads to dysregulation of synaptically driven protein synthesis and impairments of intellect, cognition, and behavior, and FXS is a disorder that currently has no effective therapeutics. Here, young fragile X mice were treated with chronic bryostatin-1, a relatively selective protein kinase Cε activator, which induces synaptogenesis and synaptic maturation/repair. Chronic treatment with bryostatin-1 rescues young fragile X mice from the disorder phenotypes, including normalization of most FXS abnormalities in 1) hippocampal brain-derived neurotrophic factor expression, 2) postsynaptic density-95 levels, 3) transformation of immature dendritic spines to mature synapses, 4) densities of the presynaptic and postsynaptic membranes, and 5) spatial learning and memory. The therapeutic effects were achieved without downregulation of metabotropic glutamate receptor (mGluR) 5 in the hippocampus and are more dramatic than those of a late-onset treatment in adult fragile X mice. mGluR5 expression was in fact lower in fragile X mice and its expression was restored with the bryostatin-1 treatment. Our results show that synaptic and cognitive function of young FXS mice can be normalized through pharmacological treatment without downregulation of mGluR5 and that bryostatin-1–like agents may represent a novel class of drugs to treat fragile X mental retardation at a young age and in adults.
- Received November 30, 2015.
- Accepted March 2, 2016.
Financial disclosure: The authors declare no conflict of interest.
- Copyright © 2016 by The American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics