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Neuroscience. 2004;123(4):939-49.

Developmental expression of methyl-CpG binding protein 2 is dynamically regulated in the rodent brain.

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Kennedy Krieger Research Institute, 707 North Broadway, Baltimore, MD 21205, USA.


The gene encoding methyl-CpG binding protein 2 (MeCP2) is mutated in the large majority of girls that have Rett Syndrome (RTT), an X-linked neurodevelopmental disorder. To better understand the developmental role of MeCP2, we studied the ontogeny of MeCP2 expression in rat brain using MeCP2 immunostaining and Western blots. MeCP2 positive neurons were present throughout the brain at all ages examined, although expression varied by region and age. At early postnatal ages, regions having neurons that were generated early and more mature had the strongest MeCP2 expression. Late developing structures including cortex, hippocampus and cerebellum exhibited the most significant changes in MeCP2 expression. Of these regions, the cerebellum showed the most striking cell-specific changes in MeCP2 expression. For example, the early-generated Purkinje cells became MeCP2 positive by P6, while the late-generated granule cells did not express MeCP2 until the fourth postnatal week. The timing of MeCP2 expression in the granule cell layer is coincident with the onset of granule cell synapse formation. Although more subtle, the degree of MeCP2 expression in cortex and hippocampus was most closely correlated with synaptogenesis in both regions. Our finding that MeCP2 expression is correlated with synaptogenesis is consistent with the hypothesis that Rett Syndrome is caused by defects in the formation or maintenance of synapses.

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