MeCP2 and Rett syndrome: reversibility and potential avenues for therapy

Biochem J. 2011 Oct 1;439(1):1-14. doi: 10.1042/BJ20110648.


Mutations in the X-linked gene MECP2 (methyl CpG-binding protein 2) are the primary cause of the neurodevelopmental disorder RTT (Rett syndrome), and are also implicated in other neurological conditions. The expression product of this gene, MeCP2, is a widely expressed nuclear protein, especially abundant in mature neurons of the CNS (central nervous system). The major recognized consequences of MECP2 mutation occur in the CNS, but there is growing awareness of peripheral effects contributing to the full RTT phenotype. MeCP2 is classically considered to act as a DNA methylation-dependent transcriptional repressor, but may have additional roles in regulating gene expression and chromatin structure. Knocking out Mecp2 function in mice recapitulates many of the overt neurological features seen in RTT patients, and the characteristic postnatally delayed onset of symptoms is accompanied by aberrant neuronal morphology and deficits in synaptic physiology. Evidence that reactivation of endogenous Mecp2 in mutant mice, even at adult stages, can reverse aspects of RTT-like pathology and result in apparently functionally mature neurons has provided renewed hope for patients, but has also provoked discussion about traditional boundaries between neurodevelopmental disorders and those involving dysfunction at later stages. In the present paper we review the neurobiology of MeCP2 and consider the various genetic (including gene therapy), pharmacological and environmental interventions that have been, and could be, developed to attempt phenotypic rescue in RTT. Such approaches are already providing valuable insights into the potential tractability of RTT and related conditions, and are useful pointers for the development of future therapeutic strategies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Genetic Therapy
  • Humans
  • Methyl-CpG-Binding Protein 2 / genetics
  • Methyl-CpG-Binding Protein 2 / metabolism*
  • Rett Syndrome / genetics
  • Rett Syndrome / metabolism*
  • Rett Syndrome / therapy


  • Methyl-CpG-Binding Protein 2