Progressive noradrenergic deficits in the locus coeruleus of Mecp2 deficient mice

J Neurosci Res. 2010 May 15;88(7):1500-9. doi: 10.1002/jnr.22312.


Methyl-CpG binding protein 2 (MeCP2) is a transcriptional regulator. Mutations in this gene cause a wide range of neurological disorders. Mecp2 deficiency has been previously associated to catecholaminergic dysfunctions leading to autonomic defects in the brainstem and the sympathoadrenergic system of the mouse. The present study was undertaken to determine if the locus coeruleus (LC), the main noradrenergic cell group of the brain, is affected. Using real type PCR, we found a reduction of the tyrosine hydroxylase (Th) mRNA level, the rate-limiting enzyme in catecholamine synthesis, in the whole pons of P15 (-36%), P30 (-47%) and P50 (-42%) Mecp2 null male as well as in adult heterozygous female (-44%) mice. Using immunoquantification we did not observe any difference of the Th staining level in P30 null male mice. However at P50, we demonstrated a significant decrease in both the Th staining level (-24%), and the number of Th-positive neurons (-23%). We subsequently characterized a reduction (-28%) of the dendritic density of the Th-positive fibers surrounding the LC in P50 null male mice. In heterozygous female mice immunoquantification did not revealed significant modifications, but only a tendency towards reduction. Finally, we did not found any apoptotic neurons in the pons indicating that LC neurons are not dying but are more likely loosing their catecholaminergic phenotype. In conclusion, our results showing a progressive catecholaminergic deficit in the LC of Mecp2 deficient null male mice could open new perspectives to better understand the autonomic and cognitive deficits due to the lack of Mecp2.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Axons / metabolism
  • Axons / pathology
  • Cell Count
  • Dendrites / metabolism
  • Dendrites / pathology
  • Down-Regulation / physiology
  • Female
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Locus Coeruleus / metabolism*
  • Locus Coeruleus / physiopathology
  • Male
  • Methyl-CpG-Binding Protein 2 / genetics*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Norepinephrine / biosynthesis
  • Norepinephrine / deficiency*
  • Phenotype
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Sex Characteristics
  • Tyrosine 3-Monooxygenase / analysis
  • Tyrosine 3-Monooxygenase / genetics
  • Tyrosine 3-Monooxygenase / metabolism


  • Mecp2 protein, mouse
  • Methyl-CpG-Binding Protein 2
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Tyrosine 3-Monooxygenase
  • Norepinephrine