Altered neuronal network formation and function involving dysregulated excitatory and inhibitory circuits are associated with fragile X syndrome (FXS). We examined functional maturation of the excitatory transmission system in FXS by investigating the response of FXS patient-derived neural progenitor cells to the glutamate analog (AMPA). Neural progenitors derived from induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) lines generated from boys with FXS had augmented intracellular Ca2+ responses to AMPA and kainate that were mediated by Ca2+-permeable AMPA receptors (CP-AMPARs) lacking the GluA2 subunit. Together with the enhanced differentiation of glutamate-responsive cells, the proportion of CP-AMPAR and N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) receptor-coexpressing cells was increased in human FXS progenitors. Differentiation of cells lacking GluA2 was also increased and paralleled the increased inward rectification in neural progenitors derived from Fmr1-knockout mice (the FXS mouse model). Human FXS progenitors had increased the expression of the precursor and mature forms of miR-181a, a microRNA that represses translation of the transcript encoding GluA2. Blocking GluA2-lacking, CP-AMPARs reduced the neurite length of human iPSC-derived control progenitors and further reduced the shortened length of neurites in human FXS progenitors, supporting the contribution of CP-AMPARs to the regulation of progenitor differentiation. Furthermore, we observed reduced expression of Gria2 (the GluA2-encoding gene) in the frontal lobe of FXS mice, consistent with functional changes of AMPARs in FXS. Increased Ca2+ influx through CP-AMPARs may increase the vulnerability and affect the differentiation and migration of distinct cell populations, which may interfere with normal circuit formation in FXS.
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