Fragile X syndrome (FXS) is the most common form of inherited intellectual disability and a leading cause of autism. FXS is due to the silencing of the Fragile X Mental Retardation Protein (FMRP), an RNA binding protein mainly involved in translational control, dendritic spine morphology and synaptic plasticity. Despite extensive studies, there is currently no cure for FXS. With the purpose to decipher the initial molecular events leading to this pathology, we developed a stem-cell-based disease model by knocking-down the expression of Fmr1 in mouse embryonic stem cells (ESCs). Repressing FMRP in ESCs increased the expression of amyloid precursor protein (APP) and Ascl1. When inducing neuronal differentiation, βIII-tubulin, p27kip1 , NeuN, and NeuroD1 were upregulated, leading to an accelerated neuronal differentiation that was partially compensated at later stages. Interestingly, we observed that neurogenesis is also accelerated in the embryonic brain of Fmr1-knockout mice, indicating that our cellular model recapitulates the molecular alterations present in vivo. Importantly, we rescued the main phenotype of the Fmr1 knockdown cell line, not only by reintroducing FMRP but also by pharmacologically targeting APP processing, showing the role of this protein in the pathophysiology of FXS during the earliest steps of neurogenesis. Our work allows to define an early therapeutic window but also to identify more effective molecules for treating this disorder. Stem Cells 2017;35:374-385.
Keywords: Autism; Embryonic stem cells; Fragile X syndrome; Intellectual disability; Neurogenesis; Therapeutic window.
© 2016 AlphaMed Press.