FtsJ RNA 2'-O-methyltransferase 1 (FTSJ1) gene has been implicated in X-linked intellectual disability (XLID), but the molecular pathogenesis is unknown. We show that Ftsj1 is responsible for 2'-O-methylation of 11 species of cytosolic transfer RNAs (tRNAs) at the anticodon region, and these modifications are abolished in Ftsj1 knockout (KO) mice and XLID patient-derived cells. Loss of 2'-O-methylation in Ftsj1 KO mouse selectively reduced the steady-state level of tRNAPhe in the brain, resulting in a slow decoding at Phe codons. Ribosome profiling showed that translation efficiency is significantly reduced in a subset of genes that need to be efficiently translated to support synaptic organization and functions. Ftsj1 KO mice display immature synaptic morphology and aberrant synaptic plasticity, which are associated with anxiety-like and memory deficits. The data illuminate a fundamental role of tRNA modification in the brain through regulation of translation efficiency and provide mechanistic insights into FTSJ1-related XLID.
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