Neural differentiation of Fragile X human Embryonic Stem Cells reveals abnormal patterns of development despite successful neurogenesis

Dev Biol. 2013 Feb 1;374(1):32-45. doi: 10.1016/j.ydbio.2012.11.031. Epub 2012 Dec 5.


Fragile X Syndrome (FXS) is the most common form of inherited intellectual disability, caused by developmentally regulated inactivation of FMR1, leading to the absence of its encoded protein FMRP. We have previously shown that undifferentiated Fragile X human Embryonic Stem Cells (FX-hESCs) express FMRP, despite the presence of the full FMR1 mutation (>200 CGG repeats). We describe here, for the first time, in-vitro differentiation of FX-hESCs into neurons progressively inactivating FMR1. Abnormal neurogenesis and aberrant gene expression were found already during early stages of differentiation, leading to poor neuronal maturation and high gliogenic development. Human FX neurons fired action potentials but displayed poor spontaneous synaptic activity and lacked reactivity to glutamate. Our dynamic FX-hESCs model can contribute to the understanding of the sequence of developmental events taking place during neurogenesis and how they are altered in FXS individuals, leading to intellectual disability. Furthermore, it may shed light over the striking phenotypic features characterizing FXS in human.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cell Lineage
  • Electrophysiology
  • Embryonic Stem Cells / cytology*
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Fragile X Mental Retardation Protein / genetics
  • Fragile X Mental Retardation Protein / physiology*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental*
  • Gene Silencing
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological
  • Nervous System
  • Neurogenesis*
  • Neuroglia / metabolism*
  • Neurons / cytology*
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Phenotype
  • Time Factors


  • FMR1 protein, human
  • Fragile X Mental Retardation Protein