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- Altered Metabotropic Glutamate Receptor Function in the Neocortex of a Fragile X Mouse
- Fenn, Jacqueline Ann
- Electronic Theses & Dissertations
Fragile X Syndrome (FXS) is the leading cause of inherited intellectual disability. It is characterized by a wide array of symptoms, including cognitive impairments, attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), hypersensitivity to sensory stimuli, autistic features, mood lability, and seizures. Since the creation of the Fmr1 KO mouse more than 20 years ago, a wealth of studies have uncovered a role for group I metabotropic glutamate receptors (mGluRs) in mediating many FXS phenotypes,...
Show moreFragile X Syndrome (FXS) is the leading cause of inherited intellectual disability. It is characterized by a wide array of symptoms, including cognitive impairments, attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), hypersensitivity to sensory stimuli, autistic features, mood lability, and seizures. Since the creation of the Fmr1 KO mouse more than 20 years ago, a wealth of studies have uncovered a role for group I metabotropic glutamate receptors (mGluRs) in mediating many FXS phenotypes, leading to development of "The mGluR Theory of Fragile X". However, studies supporting this theory have focused on impairments in the hippocampus, amygdala, and other structures of the allocortex. The isocortex remains largely uninvestigated, despite its major role in sensory integration, attentional processes, and executive function. MgluRs are also highly expressed in the neocortex, where they can modulate neuronal excitability and synaptic transmission. Using electrophysiological methods, I investigated the role of group I and group II mGluRs in modulating neocortical circuits in primary visual cortex. Humans with FXS show severe visual-motor deficits, and perform poorly on global motion tasks. Autopsy studies also reveal abnormal dendritic spine morphologies in layer 5/6 of the visual neocortex, and this is substantiated in the Fmr1 KO mouse. Using whole cell patch clamp recordings of different neuron subtypes in layer 5/6 of primary visual cortex, I found that Fmr1 KO layer 5/6 somatostatin expressing neurons (SST+) have a significant decrease in input resistance compared to wild type (WT), indicating that they are less intrinsically excitable than WT SST+ neurons. Further, I show that activation of group II mGluRs leads to disinhibition of excitatory pyramidal neurons. I also discover that suppression of GABAergic transmission by group II mGluRs is normal in the Fmr1 KO, leading to my hypothesis that increased disinhibition of pyramidal neurons by group II mGluRs is due to their altered modulation of fast glutamatergic transmission onto layer 5/6 interneurons in the Fmr1 KO mouse. Using recordings from fluorescently labeled interneurons in layer 5/6 visual neocortex, I discover that group II mGluR-mediated suppression of fast excitatory glutamatergic transmission onto inhibitory neurons is exaggerated in the Fmr1 KO mouse. I show that this effect is cell specific, as it only occurs in SST+ interneurons and not parvalbumin expressing interneurons. Finally, I show that this deficit in excitatory drive onto SST+ interneurons is mediated by presynaptic mGluRs, and that these defects are specific to layer 5/6 visual neocortex. Both the decreased excitability of SST+ interneurons and exaggerated group II-mGluR mediated suppression of excitatory drive onto these cells would lead to neocortical circuit hyperexcitability in the Fmr1 KO mouse. A hyperexcitable neocortical circuit would be anticipated to negatively impact sensory integration, a requirement for both stimulus encoding and attentional processes. Lastly, a hyperexcitable neocortical network could give rise to epileptiform activity. The results of these studies are fascinating, as group II mGluRs have not previously been implicated in studies of the neocortical pathogenesis in the Fmr1 KO mouse. This investigation also showed that group I mGluR-mediated modulation of membrane excitability and fast synaptic transmission is unaltered in the Fmr1 KO mouse, suggesting that "The mGluR theory of Fragile X" may in fact be more or less valid contingent on the brain region under investigation. It is my hope that these circuit studies will inform scientific investigations on autism spectrum disorders and epilepsy syndromes, as both show high comorbidity in individuals with FXS.