Microglia, the resident CNS macrophages, have been implicated in the pathogenesis of Rett Syndrome (RTT), an X-linked neurodevelopmental disorder. However, the mechanism by which microglia contribute to the disorder is unclear and recent data suggest that microglia do not play a causative role. Here, we use the retinogeniculate system to determine if and how microglia contribute to pathogenesis in a RTT mouse model, the Mecp2 null mouse (Mecp2(tm1.1Bird/y)). We demonstrate that microglia contribute to pathogenesis by excessively engulfing, thereby eliminating, presynaptic inputs at end stages of disease (≥P56 Mecp2 null mice) concomitant with synapse loss. Furthermore, loss or gain of Mecp2 expression specifically in microglia (Cx3cr1(CreER);Mecp2(fl/y)or Cx3cr1(Cr)(eER); Mecp2(LSL/y)) had little effect on excessive engulfment, synapse loss, or phenotypic abnormalities. Taken together, our data suggest that microglia contribute to end stages of disease by dismantling neural circuits rendered vulnerable by loss of Mecp2 in other CNS cell types.
Keywords: Mecp2; Rett Syndrome; engulfment; microglia; mouse; neuroscience; synapse.