Research ArticleFragile X Syndrome

Epigenetic Modification of the FMR1 Gene in Fragile X Syndrome Is Associated with Differential Response to the mGluR5 Antagonist AFQ056

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Science Translational Medicine  05 Jan 2011:
Vol. 3, Issue 64, pp. 64ra1
DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3001708

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Fragile X syndrome (FXS) is an X-linked condition associated with intellectual disability and behavioral problems. It is caused by expansion of a CGG repeat in the 5′ untranslated region of the fragile X mental retardation 1 (FMR1) gene. This mutation is associated with hypermethylation at the FMR1 promoter and resultant transcriptional silencing. FMR1 silencing has many consequences, including up-regulation of metabotropic glutamate receptor 5 (mGluR5)–mediated signaling. mGluR5 receptor antagonists have shown promise in preclinical FXS models and in one small open-label study of FXS. We examined whether a receptor subtype–selective inhibitor of mGluR5, AFQ056, improves the behavioral symptoms of FXS in a randomized, double-blind, two-treatment, two-period, crossover study of 30 male FXS patients aged 18 to 35 years. We detected no significant effects of treatment on the primary outcome measure, the Aberrant Behavior Checklist–Community Edition (ABC-C) score, at day 19 or 20 of treatment. In an exploratory analysis, however, seven patients with full FMR1 promoter methylation and no detectable FMR1 messenger RNA improved, as measured with the ABC-C, significantly more after AFQ056 treatment than with placebo (P < 0.001). We detected no response in 18 patients with partial promoter methylation. Twenty-four patients experienced an adverse event, which was mostly mild to moderately severe fatigue or headache. If confirmed in larger and longer-term studies, these results suggest that blockade of the mGluR5 receptor in patients with full methylation at the FMR1 promoter may show improvement in the behavioral attributes of FXS.


  • * These authors contributed equally to this work.

  • Citation: S. Jacquemont, A. Curie, V. des Portes, M. G. Torrioli, E. Berry-Kravis, R. J. Hagerman, F. J. Ramos, K. Cornish, Y. He, C. Paulding, G. Neri, F. Chen, N. Hadjikhani, D. Martinet, J. Meyer, J. S. Beckmann, K. Delange, A. Brun, G. Bussy, F. Gasparini, T. Hilse, A. Floesser, J. Branson, G. Bilbe, D. Johns, B. Gomez-Mancilla, Epigenetic Modification of the FMR1 Gene in Fragile X Syndrome Is Associated with Differential Response to the mGluR5 Antagonist AFQ056. Sci. Transl. Med. 3, 64ra1 (2011).

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