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J Appl Physiol (1985). 2012 Mar;112(5):704-10. doi: 10.1152/japplphysiol.01361.2011. Epub 2011 Dec 22.

7,8-dihydroxyflavone exhibits therapeutic efficacy in a mouse model of Rett syndrome.

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  • 1Department of Surgical Sciences, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, Wisconsin, USA.


Rett syndrome (RTT), caused by mutations in the methyl-CpG binding protein 2 gene (MECP2), is a debilitating autism spectrum developmental disorder predominantly affecting females. Mecp2 mutant mice have reduced levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) in the brain; conditional deletion and overexpression of BDNF in the brain accelerates and slows, respectively, disease progression in Mecp2 mutant mice. Thus we tested the hypothesis that 7,8-dihydroxyflavone (7,8-DHF), a small molecule reported to activate the high affinity BDNF receptor (TrkB) in the CNS, would attenuate disease progression in Mecp2 mutant mice. Following weaning, 7,8-DHF was administered in drinking water throughout life. Treated mutant mice lived significantly longer compared with untreated mutant littermates (80 ± 4 and 66 ± 2 days, respectively). 7,8-DHF delayed body weight loss, increased neuronal nuclei size and enhanced voluntary locomotor (running wheel) distance in Mecp2 mutant mice. In addition, administration of 7,8-DHF partially improved breathing pattern irregularities and returned tidal volumes to near wild-type levels. Thus although the specific mechanisms are not completely known, 7,8-DHF appears to reduce disease symptoms in Mecp2 mutant mice and may have potential as a therapeutic treatment for RTT patients.

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