Targeted treatments for fragile X syndrome

J Neurodev Disord. 2011 Sep;3(3):193-210. doi: 10.1007/s11689-011-9074-7. Epub 2011 Feb 19.


Fragile X syndrome (FXS) is the most common identifiable genetic cause of intellectual disability and autistic spectrum disorders (ASD), with up to 50% of males and some females with FXS meeting criteria for ASD. Autistic features are present in a very high percent of individuals with FXS, even those who do not meet full criteria for ASD. Recent major advances have been made in the understanding of the neurobiology and functions of FMRP, the FMR1 (fragile X mental retardation 1) gene product, which is absent or reduced in FXS, largely based on work in the fmr1 knockout mouse model. FXS has emerged as a disorder of synaptic plasticity associated with abnormalities of long-term depression and long-term potentiation and immature dendritic spine architecture, related to the dysregulation of dendritic translation typically activated by group I mGluR and other receptors. This work has led to efforts to develop treatments for FXS with neuroactive molecules targeted to the dysregulated translational pathway. These agents have been shown to rescue molecular, spine, and behavioral phenotypes in the FXS mouse model at multiple stages of development. Clinical trials are underway to translate findings in animal models of FXS to humans, raising complex issues about trial design and outcome measures to assess cognitive change that might be associated with treatment. Genes known to be causes of ASD interact with the translational pathway defective in FXS, and it has been hypothesized that there will be substantial overlap in molecular pathways and mechanisms of synaptic dysfunction between FXS and ASD. Therefore, targeted treatments developed for FXS may also target subgroups of ASD, and clinical trials in FXS may serve as a model for the development of clinical trial strategies for ASD and other cognitive disorders.