This review focuses on the 19 identified genes involved in X-linked “non-syndromic” mental retardation (MR) and defines the signaling pathways in which they are involved, focusing on emerging common mechanisms. The majority of proteins are involved in three distinct pathways: (1) Rho GTPases pathway modulating neuronal differentiation and synaptic plasticity; (2) Rab GTPases pathway regulating synaptic vesicle cycling; (3) gene expression regulation. The function of four proteins (ACSL4, AT2, SLC6A8, and SAP102) could not be reconciled to a common pathway. From a clinical point of view, the review discusses whether some common dysmorphic features can be identified even in non-syndromic MR patients and whether it is correct to maintain the distinction between “non-syndromic” and “syndromic” MR. © 2005 Wiley-Liss, Inc.