Aberrant Rac1-cofilin signaling mediates defects in dendritic spines, synaptic function, and sensory perception in fragile X syndrome

Alexander Pyronneau, Qionger He, Jee Yeon Hwang, Morgan Porch, Anis Contractor, R. Suzanne Zukin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

29 Scopus citations

Abstract

Fragile X syndrome (FXS) is the most common inherited cause of intellectual disabilities and a leading cause of autism. FXS is caused by a trinucleotide expansion in the gene FMR1 on the X chromosome. The neuroanatomical hallmark of FXS is an overabundance of immature dendritic spines, a factor thought to underlie synaptic dysfunction and impaired cognition. We showed that aberrantly increased activity of the Rho GTPase Rac1 inhibited the actin-depolymerizing factor cofilin, a major determinant of dendritic spine structure, and caused diseaseassociated spine abnormalities in the somatosensory cortex of FXS model mice. Increased cofilin phosphorylation and actin polymerization coincided with abnormal dendritic spines and impaired synaptic maturation. Viral delivery of a constitutively active cofilin mutant (cofilinS3A) into the somatosensory cortex of Fmr1-deficient mice rescued the immature dendritic spine phenotype and increased spine density. Inhibition of the Rac1 effector PAK1 with a small-molecule inhibitor rescued cofilin signaling in FXS mice, indicating a causal relationship between PAK1 and cofilin signaling. PAK1 inhibition rescued synaptic signaling (specifically the synaptic ratio of NMDA/AMPA in layer V pyramidal neurons) and improved sensory processing in FXS mice. These findings suggest a causal relationship between increased Rac1-cofilin signaling, synaptic defects, and impaired sensory processing in FXS and uncover a previously unappreciated role for impaired Rac1-cofilin signaling in the aberrant spine morphology and spine density associated with FXS.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbereaan0852
JournalScience Signaling
Volume10
Issue number504
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 7 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology

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