The Fragile-X mental retardation protein, the protein absent in Fragile-X syndrome, is synthesized near synapses upon neurotransmitter activation. Humans and mice lacking this protein exhibit abnormal dendritic spine lengths and numbers. Here we investigated Fragile-X protein levels in animals exposed to behavioral paradigms that induce neuronal morphological change. Fragile-X protein immunoreactivity was examined in visual cortices of rats reared in a complex environment for 10 or 20 days, motor cortices of rats trained on motor-skill tasks for 3 or 7 days, and either visual or motor cortices of inactive controls. Rats exposed to a complex environment for 20 days or trained for 7 days on motor-skill tasks exhibited increased Fragile-X protein immunoreactivity in visual or motor cortices, respectively. These results provide the first evidence for a behaviorally induced alteration of Fragile-X protein expression and are compatible with previous findings suggesting synaptic regulation of its expression. These results also strengthen the association of Fragile-X mental retardation protein expression with the alteration of synaptic structure.
Copyright 2000 Academic Press.