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Hum Mol Genet. 1999;8(10):1833-8.

Breakthroughs in molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying X-linked mental retardation.

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INSERM U129-ICGM, CHU Cochin, Paris, France.


Although genetic causes of X-linked mental retardation (XLMR) are heterogeneous and complex, recent concerted actions between physicians and biologists have allowed some major difficulties to be overcome and led to the identification of an increasing number of genes involved in these conditions. Indeed, over the past 2 years significant progress has been made in understanding the molecular basis underlying not only XLMR, where there are distinguishing phenotypic or genetic markers (syndromal forms of XLMR), but also non-specific (or idiopathic) mental retardation (MRX). Recent breakthroughs have shown that genes responsible for these latter conditions encode for proteins involved in signalling pathways which regulate cytoskeleton organization, synaptic vesicle transport and, maybe, other cellular functions. Also, they suggest a provacative picture that conceptualizes MRX as disorders resulting from a dysfunctioning of genes required for processes such as the remodelling, establishment and stabilization of connections between neuronal cells. Such processes are crucial for the development of intellectual and cognitive functions. As these functions begin to evolve mainly in post-natal stages through contact with diverse stimuli and environments, a potential therapeutic approach would be the development of drugs that target cellular signalling pathways shown to be implicated in MRX.

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