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Nat Clin Pract Neurol. 2006 Apr;2(4):212-21.

Mechanisms of disease: neurogenetics of MeCP2 deficiency.

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  • 1Department of Genetics, Stanford University School of Medicine, Beckman Center for Molecular and Genetic Medicine B201, Stanford, CA 94305-5323, USA.


Rett syndrome (RTT) is unique among genetic, chromosomal and other developmental disorders because of its extreme female gender bias, early normal development, and subsequent developmental regression with loss of motor and language skills. RTT is caused by heterozygosity for mutations in the X-linked gene MECP2, which encodes methyl-CpG binding protein 2. MeCP2 is a multifunctional protein that can act as an architectural chromatin-binding protein, a function that is unrelated to its ability to bind methyl-CpG and to attract chromatin modification complexes. Inactivating mutations that cause RTT in females are not prenatally lethal in males, but lead to profound congenital encephalopathy. Molecular diagnoses of RTT, through demonstration of a MECP2 mutation, made at an early stage of the disorder, usually confirm the sporadic nature and very low recurrence risk of the condition. A positive DNA test result, however, also predicts the inevitable clinical course, given the lack of effective intervention. Initial hypotheses indicating that the MeCP2 protein acts as a genome-wide transcriptional repressor were not confirmed by global gene expression studies in various tissues of individuals with RTT and mouse models of MeCP2 deficiency. Rather, recent evidence points to low-magnitude effects of a small number of genes--including the brain--derived neurotrophic factor pathway and glucocorticoid response genes-that might affect formation and maturation of synapses or synaptic function in postmitotic neurons.

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