Fragile X mental retardation protein regulates olfactory sensitivity but not odorant discrimination

Chem Senses. 2015 Jun;40(5):345-50. doi: 10.1093/chemse/bjv019. Epub 2015 Apr 27.


Fragile X syndrome (FXS) is the most common cause of inherited intellectual disability and is characterized by cognitive impairments and altered sensory function. It is caused by absence of fragile X mental retardation protein (FMRP), an RNA-binding protein essential for normal synaptic plasticity and function. Animal models have provided important insights into mechanisms through which loss of FMRP impacts cognitive and sensory development and function. While FMRP is highly enriched in the developing and adult olfactory bulb (OB), its role in olfactory sensory function remains poorly understood. Here, we used a mouse model of FXS, the fmr1 (-/y) mouse, to test whether loss of FMRP impacts olfactory discrimination, habituation, or sensitivity using a spontaneous olfactory cross-habituation task at a range of odorant concentrations. We demonstrated that fmr1 (-/y) mice have a significant decrease in olfactory sensitivity compared with wild type controls. When we controlled for differences in sensitivity, we found no effect of loss of FMRP on the ability to habituate to or spontaneously discriminate between odorants. These data indicate that loss of FMRP significantly alters olfactory sensitivity, but not other facets of basal olfactory function. These findings have important implications for future studies aimed at understanding the role of FMRP on sensory functioning.

Keywords: FMRP; behavior; discrimination; mouse; olfaction; sensitivity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Fragile X Mental Retardation Protein / genetics
  • Fragile X Mental Retardation Protein / metabolism*
  • Fragile X Syndrome / genetics
  • Fragile X Syndrome / metabolism
  • Gene Deletion
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Odorants*
  • Olfactory Pathways / metabolism*
  • Olfactory Perception / physiology*


  • Fragile X Mental Retardation Protein