Sustained correction of hippocampal neurogenic and cognitive deficits after a brief treatment by Nutlin-3 in a mouse model of fragile X syndrome

BMC Med. 2022 May 13;20(1):163. doi: 10.1186/s12916-022-02370-9.


Background: Fragile X syndrome (FXS), the most prevalent inherited intellectual disability and one of the most common monogenic forms of autism, is caused by a loss of fragile X messenger ribonucleoprotein 1 (FMR1). We have previously shown that FMR1 represses the levels and activities of ubiquitin ligase MDM2 in young adult FMR1-deficient mice, and treatment by a MDM2 inhibitor Nutlin-3 rescues both hippocampal neurogenic and cognitive deficits in FMR1-deficient mice when analyzed shortly after the administration. However, it is unknown whether Nutlin-3 treatment can have long-lasting therapeutic effects.

Methods: We treated 2-month-old young adult FMR1-deficient mice with Nutlin-3 for 10 days and then assessed the persistent effect of Nutlin-3 on both cognitive functions and adult neurogenesis when mice were 6-month-old mature adults. To investigate the mechanisms underlying the persistent effects of Nutlin-3, we analyzed the proliferation and differentiation of neural stem/progenitor cells isolated from these mice and assessed the transcriptome of the hippocampal tissues of treated mice.

Results: We found that transient treatment with Nutlin-3 of 2-month-old young adult FMR1-deficient mice prevents the emergence of neurogenic and cognitive deficits in mature adult FXS mice at 6 months of age. We further found that the long-lasting restoration of neurogenesis and cognitive function might not be mediated by changing intrinsic properties of adult neural stem cells. Transcriptomic analysis of the hippocampal tissue demonstrated that transient Nultin-3 treatment leads to significant expression changes in genes related to the extracellular matrix, secreted factors, and cell membrane proteins in the FMR1-deficient hippocampus.

Conclusions: Our data indicates that transient Nutlin-3 treatment in young adults leads to long-lasting neurogenic and behavioral changes likely through modulating adult neurogenic niche that impact adult neural stem cells. Our results demonstrate that cognitive impairments in FXS may be prevented by an early intervention through Nutlin-3 treatment.

Keywords: Adult neurogenesis; FMR1; Fragile X syndrome; MDM2; Neural stem cells; Nutlin-3.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cognition
  • Cognitive Dysfunction* / drug therapy
  • Crisis Intervention
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Fragile X Mental Retardation Protein / genetics
  • Fragile X Mental Retardation Protein / metabolism
  • Fragile X Syndrome* / drug therapy
  • Fragile X Syndrome* / genetics
  • Fragile X Syndrome* / metabolism
  • Hippocampus / metabolism
  • Imidazoles
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Neurogenesis
  • Piperazines


  • Fmr1 protein, mouse
  • Imidazoles
  • Piperazines
  • Fragile X Mental Retardation Protein
  • nutlin 3