MeCP2 mutation results in compartment-specific reductions in dendritic branching and spine density in layer 5 motor cortical neurons of YFP-H mice

PLoS One. 2012;7(3):e31896. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0031896. Epub 2012 Mar 7.


Rett Syndrome (RTT) is a neurodevelopmental disorder predominantly caused by mutations in the X-linked gene MECP2. A primary feature of the syndrome is the impaired maturation and maintenance of excitatory synapses in the central nervous system (CNS). Different RTT mouse models have shown that particular Mecp2 mutations have highly variable effects on neuronal architecture. Distinguishing MeCP2 mutant cellular phenotypes therefore demands analysis of specific mutations in well-defined neuronal subpopulations. We examined a transgenically labeled subset of cortical neurons in YFP-H mice crossed with the Mecp2(tm1.1Jae) mutant line. YFP(+) Layer 5 pyramidal neurons in the motor cortex of wildtype and hemizygous mutant male mice were examined for differences in dendrite morphology and spine density. Total basal dendritic length was decreased by 18.6% due to both shorter dendrites and reduced branching proximal to the soma. Tangential dendrite lengths in the apical tuft were reduced by up to 26.6%. Spine density was reduced by 47.4% in the apical tuft and 54.5% in secondary apical dendrites, but remained unaffected in primary apical and proximal basal dendrites. We also found that MeCP2 mutation reduced the number of YFP(+) cells in YFP-H mice by up to 72% in various cortical regions without affecting the intensity of YFP expression in individual cells. Our results support the view that the effects of MeCP2 mutation are highly context-dependent and cannot be generalized across mutation types and cell populations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Dendrites / pathology
  • Dendritic Spines / pathology
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Gene Expression
  • Male
  • Methyl-CpG-Binding Protein 2 / genetics*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Motor Cortex / metabolism
  • Motor Cortex / pathology*
  • Motor Neurons / metabolism*
  • Motor Neurons / pathology*
  • Mutation*
  • Rett Syndrome / genetics
  • Rett Syndrome / pathology


  • Methyl-CpG-Binding Protein 2