MeCP2-dependent transcriptional repression regulates excitatory neurotransmission

Curr Biol. 2006 Apr 4;16(7):710-6. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2006.02.062.


Mutations in the transcriptional repressor, methyl-CpG binding protein 2 (MeCP2), result in a neurodevelopmental disorder called Rett Syndrome (RTT) . Based on the neurological phenotypes observed in Rett patients, we examined the potential role of MeCP2 in synaptic function. We compared elementary properties of synaptic transmission between cultured hippocampal neurons from MeCP2 knockout and wild-type littermate control mice and found a decrease in the frequency of spontaneous excitatory synaptic transmission (mEPSCs) in neurons lacking MeCP2. We also detected a significant increase in the rate of short-term synaptic depression. To explore whether these functional effects can be attributed to MeCP2's role as a transcriptional silencer, we treated cultures with a drug that impairs histone deacetylation and examined spontaneous synaptic transmission. Treatment with this compound induced a similar decrease in mEPSC frequency in wild-type control cultures, but this decrease was occluded in MeCP2-deficient neurons. Interestingly, neither the loss of MeCP2 nor the drug treatment resulted in changes in mIPSC properties. Finally, by means of a lentivirus expressing Cre recombinase, we show that loss of MeCP2 function after neurodevelopment and synaptogenesis was sufficient to mimic the decrease in mEPSC frequency seen in constitutive MeCP2 KO neurons. Taken together, these results suggest a role for MeCP2 in control of excitatory presynaptic function through regulation of gene expression.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Evoked Potentials / physiology
  • Gene Silencing*
  • Hippocampus / cytology
  • Integrases / metabolism
  • Lentivirus / metabolism
  • Methyl-CpG-Binding Protein 2 / genetics
  • Methyl-CpG-Binding Protein 2 / physiology*
  • Mice
  • Mutation
  • Neurons / cytology
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Neurons / virology
  • Repressor Proteins / genetics
  • Repressor Proteins / physiology*
  • Synaptic Transmission / genetics*
  • Transcription, Genetic
  • Viral Proteins / metabolism


  • Mecp2 protein, mouse
  • Methyl-CpG-Binding Protein 2
  • Repressor Proteins
  • Viral Proteins
  • Cre recombinase
  • Integrases