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Front Physiol. 2014 May 30;5:205. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2014.00205. eCollection 2014.

Pinpointing brainstem mechanisms responsible for autonomic dysfunction in Rett syndrome: therapeutic perspectives for 5-HT1A agonists.

Author information

1
School of Physiology and Pharmacology, University of Bristol Bristol, UK.
2
Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Oregon Health and Science University Portland, OR, USA.
3
Neurolixis Inc. Dana Point, CA, USA.

Abstract

Rett syndrome is a neurological disorder caused by loss of function of methyl-CpG-binding protein 2 (MeCP2). Reduced function of this ubiquitous transcriptional regulator has a devastating effect on the central nervous system. One of the most severe and life-threatening presentations of this syndrome is brainstem dysfunction, which results in autonomic disturbances such as breathing deficits, typified by episodes of breathing cessation intercalated with episodes of hyperventilation or irregular breathing. Defects in numerous neurotransmitter systems have been observed in Rett syndrome both in animal models and patients. Here we dedicate special attention to serotonin due to its role in promoting regular breathing, increasing vagal tone, regulating mood, alleviating Parkinsonian-like symptoms and potential for therapeutic translation. A promising new symptomatic strategy currently focuses on regulation of serotonergic function using highly selective serotonin type 1A (5-HT1A) "biased agonists." We address this newly emerging therapy for respiratory brainstem dysfunction and challenges for translation with a holistic perspective of Rett syndrome, considering potential mood and motor effects.

KEYWORDS:

5-HT1A receptor; Rett syndrome; anxiety; brainstem; breathing; motor activity; serotonin; vagal tone

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