Increasing our understanding of human cognition through the study of fragile X syndrome

Authors

  • Denise Cook,

    1. Department of Neurology and Neurosurgery, Centre for Research in Neuroscience, The Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre, Montreal General Hospital, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Erin Nuro,

    1. Department of Neurology and Neurosurgery, Centre for Research in Neuroscience, The Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre, Montreal General Hospital, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Keith K. Murai

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Neurology and Neurosurgery, Centre for Research in Neuroscience, The Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre, Montreal General Hospital, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
    Search for more papers by this author

ABSTRACT

Fragile X Syndrome (FXS) is considered the most common form of inherited intellectual disability. It is caused by reductions in the expression level or function of a single protein, the Fragile X Mental Retardation Protein (FMRP), a translational regulator which binds to approximately 4% of brain messenger RNAs. Accumulating evidence suggests that FXS is a complex disorder of cognition, involving interactions between genetic and environmental influences, leading to difficulties in acquiring key life skills including motor skills, language, and proper social behaviors. Since many FXS patients also present with one or more features of autism spectrum disorders (ASDs), insights gained from studying the monogenic basis of FXS could pave the way to a greater understanding of underlying features of multigenic ASDs. Here we present an overview of the FXS and FMRP field with the goal of demonstrating how loss of a single protein involved in translational control affects multiple stages of brain development and leads to debilitating consequences on human cognition. We also focus on studies which have rescued or improved FXS symptoms in mice using genetic or therapeutic approaches to reduce protein expression. We end with a brief description of how deficits in translational control are implicated in FXS and certain cases of ASDs, with many recent studies demonstrating that ASDs are likely caused by increases or decreases in the levels of certain key synaptic proteins. The study of FXS and its underlying single genetic cause offers an invaluable opportunity to study how a single gene influences brain development and behavior. © 2013 The Authors. Developmental Neurobiology Published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Develop Neurobiol 74: 147–177, 2014

Ancillary