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Fragile X syndrome (FXS), the most common inherited cause of intellectual disability and autism, results from the transcriptional silencing of FMR1 and loss of the mRNA translational repressor protein fragile X mental retardation protein (FMRP). Patients with FXS exhibit changes in neuronal dendritic spine morphology, a pathology associated with altered synaptic function. Studies in the mouse model of fragile X have shown that loss of FMRP causes excessive synaptic protein synthesis, which results in synaptic dysfunction and altered spine morphology. We tested whether the pharmacologic activation of the γ-aminobutyric acid type B (GABAB) receptor could correct or reverse these phenotypes in Fmr1-knockout mice. Basal protein synthesis, which is elevated in the hippocampus of Fmr1-knockout mice, was corrected by the in vitro application of the selective GABAB receptor agonist STX209 (arbaclofen, R-baclofen). STX209 also reduced to wild-type values the elevated AMPA receptor internalization in Fmr1-knockout cultured neurons, a known functional consequence of increased protein synthesis. Acute administration of STX209 in vivo, at doses that modify behavior, decreased mRNA translation in the cortex of Fmr1-knockout mice. Finally, the chronic administration of STX209 in juvenile mice corrected the increased spine density in Fmr1-knockout mice without affecting spine density in wild-type mice. Thus, activation of the GABAB receptor with STX209 corrected synaptic abnormalities considered central to fragile X pathophysiology, a finding that suggests that STX209 may be a potentially effective therapy to treat the core symptoms of FXS.
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