Role of FMRP in AKT/mTOR pathway-mediated hippocampal autophagy in fragile X syndrome

Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry. 2024 May 31:134:111036. doi: 10.1016/j.pnpbp.2024.111036. Online ahead of print.


Fragile X syndrome (FXS) is caused by epigenetic silencing of the Fmr1 gene, leading to the deletion of the coding protein FMRP. FXS induces abnormal hippocampal autophagy and mTOR overactivation. However, it remains unclear whether FMRP regulates hippocampal autophagy through the AKT/mTOR pathway, which influences the neural behavior of FXS. Our study revealed that FMRP deficiency increased the protein levels of p-ULK-1 and p62 and decreased LC3II/LC3I level in Fmr1 knockout (KO) mice. The mouse hippocampal neuronal cell line HT22 with knockdown of Fmr1 by lentivirus showed that the protein levels of p-ULK-1 and p62 were increased, whereas LC3II/LC3I was unchanged. Further observations revealed that FMRP deficiency obstructed autophagic flow in HT22 cells. Therefore, FMRP deficiency inhibited autophagy in the mouse hippocampus and HT22 cells. Moreover, FMRP deficiency increased reactive oxygen species (ROS) level, decreased the co-localization between the mitochondrial outer membrane proteins TOM20 and LC3 in HT22 cells, and caused a decrease in the mitochondrial autophagy protein PINK1 in HT22 cells and Fmr1 KO mice, indicating that FMRP deficiency caused mitochondrial autophagy disorder in HT22 cells and Fmr1 KO mice. To explore the mechanism by which FMRP deficiency inhibits autophagy, we examined the AKT/mTOR signaling pathway in the hippocampus of Fmr1 KO mice, found that FMRP deficiency caused overactivation of the AKT/mTOR pathway. Rapamycin-mediated mTOR inhibition activated and enhanced mitochondrial autophagy. Finally, we examined whether rapamycin affected the neurobehavior of Fmr1 KO mice. The Fmr1 KO mice exhibited stereotypical behavior, impaired social ability, and learning and memory impairment, while rapamycin treatment improved behavioral disorders in Fmr1 KO mice. Thus, our study revealed the molecular mechanism by which FMRP regulates autophagy function, clarifying the role of hippocampal neuron mitochondrial autophagy in the pathogenesis of FXS, and providing novel insights into potential therapeutic targets of FXS.

Keywords: AKT/mTOR pathway; Autophagy; FMRP; Fragile X syndrome; Neurobehavioral.