Alterations of gene expression and glutamate clearance in astrocytes derived from an MeCP2-null mouse model of Rett syndrome

PLoS One. 2012;7(4):e35354. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0035354. Epub 2012 Apr 20.


Rett syndrome (RTT) is a neurodevelopmetal disorder associated with mutations in the methyl-CpG-binding protein 2 (MeCP2) gene. MeCP2-deficient mice recapitulate the neurological degeneration observed in RTT patients. Recent studies indicated a role of not only neurons but also glial cells in neuronal dysfunction in RTT. We cultured astrocytes from MeCP2-null mouse brain and examined astroglial gene expression, growth rate, cytotoxic effects, and glutamate (Glu) clearance. Semi-quantitative RT-PCR analysis revealed that expression of astroglial marker genes, including GFAP and S100β, was significantly higher in MeCP2-null astrocytes than in control astrocytes. Loss of MeCP2 did not affect astroglial cell morphology, growth, or cytotoxic effects, but did alter Glu clearance in astrocytes. When high extracellular Glu was added to the astrocyte cultures and incubated, a time-dependent decrease of extracellular Glu concentration occurred due to Glu clearance by astrocytes. Although the shapes of the profiles of Glu concentration versus time for each strain of astrocytes were grossly similar, Glu concentration in the medium of MeCP2-null astrocytes were lower than those of control astrocytes at 12 and 18 h. In addition, MeCP2 deficiency impaired downregulation of excitatory amino acid transporter 1 and 2 (EAAT1/2) transcripts, but not induction of glutamine synthetase (GS) transcripts, upon high Glu exposure. In contrast, GS protein was significantly higher in MeCP2-null astrocytes than in control astrocytes. These findings suggest that MeCP2 affects astroglial genes expression in cultured astrocytes, and that abnormal Glu clearance in MeCP2-deficient astrocytes may influence the onset and progression of RTT.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Transport System X-AG / genetics
  • Amino Acid Transport System X-AG / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Astrocytes / metabolism*
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Gene Expression*
  • Glial Fibrillary Acidic Protein / genetics
  • Glial Fibrillary Acidic Protein / metabolism
  • Glutamate-Ammonia Ligase / genetics
  • Glutamate-Ammonia Ligase / metabolism
  • Glutamic Acid / genetics
  • Glutamic Acid / metabolism*
  • Methyl-CpG-Binding Protein 2 / genetics
  • Methyl-CpG-Binding Protein 2 / metabolism*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Nerve Growth Factors / genetics
  • Nerve Growth Factors / metabolism
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Rett Syndrome / genetics
  • Rett Syndrome / metabolism*
  • S100 Calcium Binding Protein beta Subunit
  • S100 Proteins / genetics
  • S100 Proteins / metabolism


  • Amino Acid Transport System X-AG
  • Glial Fibrillary Acidic Protein
  • Mecp2 protein, mouse
  • Methyl-CpG-Binding Protein 2
  • Nerve Growth Factors
  • S100 Calcium Binding Protein beta Subunit
  • S100 Proteins
  • Glutamic Acid
  • Glutamate-Ammonia Ligase