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Neuropathology of Rett syndrome.

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Department of Pathology, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas 77030, USA.


Rett Syndrome is unlike any other pediatric neurologic disease, and its clinical-pathologic correlation can not be defined with standard histology techniques. Based on hypotheses suggested by careful clinical observations, the nervous system of the Rett child has been explored utilizing morphometry, golgi preparations, computerized tomography, magnetic resonance imaging, chemistry, immunocytochemistry, autoradiography, and molecular biologic techniques. From these many perspectives we conclude that Rett syndrome is not a typical degenerative disorder, storage disorder, nor the result of gross malformation, infectious or neoplastic processes. There remain regions of the brain that have not been studied in detail but the available data suggest that the neuropathology of Rett syndrome can be summarized as follows: the Rett brain is small for the age and the height of the patient; it does not become progressively smaller over three to four decades; it has small dendritic trees in pyramidal neurons of layers III and V in selected lobes (frontal, motor, and temporal); it has small neurons with an increased neuronal packing density; it has an immature expression of microtubular protein-2 and cyclooxygenase; it exhibits a changing pattern of neurotransmitter receptors with an apparent reduction in many neurotransmitters, possibly contributing to some symptomatology. A mutation in Mecp2 causes this unique disorder of brain development. Neuronal mosaicism for normal and mutated Mecp2 produces a consistent phenotype in the classic female patient and a small brain with some preserved islands of function, but with an inability to support hand use and speech. This paper summarizes our current observations about neuropathology of Rett syndrome. MRDD Research Reviews 2002;8:72-76.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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