Mutations in the transcriptional regulator MeCP2 severely impact key cellular and molecular signatures of human astrocytes during maturation

Cell Rep. 2023 Jan 31;42(1):111942. doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2022.111942. Epub 2023 Jan 5.


Mutations in the MECP2 gene underlie a spectrum of neurodevelopmental disorders, most commonly Rett syndrome (RTT). We ask whether MECP2 mutations interfere with human astrocyte developmental maturation, thereby affecting their ability to support neurons. Using human-based models, we show that RTT-causing MECP2 mutations greatly impact the key role of astrocytes in regulating overall brain bioenergetics and that these metabolic aberrations are likely mediated by dysfunctional mitochondria. During post-natal maturation, astrocytes rely on neurons to induce their complex stellate morphology and transcriptional changes. While MECP2 mutations cause cell-intrinsic aberrations in the astrocyte transcriptional landscape, surprisingly, they do not affect the neuron-induced astrocyte gene expression. Notably, however, astrocytes are unable to develop complex mature morphology due to cell- and non-cell-autonomous aberrations caused by MECP2 mutations. Thus, MECP2 mutations critically impact key cellular and molecular features of human astrocytes and, hence, their ability to interact and support the structural and functional maturation of neurons.

Keywords: CP: Neuroscience; MeCP2; Rett syndrome; energy metabolism; human astrocytes; human neurons; mitochondria; morphology; neurodevelopment; transcription.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Astrocytes* / metabolism
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Methyl-CpG-Binding Protein 2 / genetics
  • Methyl-CpG-Binding Protein 2 / metabolism
  • Mutation / genetics
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Rett Syndrome* / genetics
  • Rett Syndrome* / metabolism


  • Methyl-CpG-Binding Protein 2