Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Abnormalities of cell packing density and dendritic complexity in the MeCP2 A140V mouse model of Rett syndrome/X-linked mental retardation

Garilyn M Jentarra1, Shannon L Olfers1, Stephen G Rice1, Nishit Srivastava1, Gregg E Homanics2, Mary Blue3, SakkuBai Naidu4 and Vinodh Narayanan15*

Author Affiliations

1 Neurology Research Department, Barrow Neurological Institute, 350 W Thomas Rd, NRC 438, Phoenix, AZ, 85013, USA

2 Departments of Anesthesiology and Pharmacology & Chemical Biology, University of Pittsburgh, 6060 Biomedical Science Tower 3, Pittsburgh, PA, 15261, USA

3 Neuroscience Laboratory, Kennedy Krieger Institute, 707 North Broadway, Baltimore, MD, 21205, USA

4 Departments of Neurology and Pediatrics, Kennedy Krieger Institute, 707 North Broadway, Baltimore, MD, 21205, USA

5 School of Life Sciences, Arizona State University, University Drive and Mill Ave, Tempe, AZ, 85287, USA

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BMC Neuroscience 2010, 11:19  doi:10.1186/1471-2202-11-19

Published: 17 February 2010



Rett syndrome (RTT), a common cause of mental retardation in girls, is associated with mutations in the MECP2 gene. Most human cases of MECP2 mutation in girls result in classical or variant forms of RTT. When these same mutations occur in males, they often present as severe neonatal encephalopathy. However, some MECP2 mutations can also lead to diseases characterized as mental retardation syndromes, particularly in boys. One of these mutations, A140V, is a common, recurring missense mutation accounting for about 0.6% of all MeCP2 mutations and ranking 21st by frequency. It has been described in familial X-linked mental retardation (XLMR), PPM- X syndrome (Parkinsonism, Pyramidal signs, Macroorchidism, X-linked mental retardation) and in other neuropsychiatric syndromes. Interestingly, this mutation has been reported to preserve the methyl-CpG binding function of the MeCP2 protein while compromising its ability to bind to the mental retardation associated protein ATRX.


We report the construction and initial characterization of a mouse model expressing the A140V MeCP2 mutation. These initial descriptive studies in male hemizygous mice have revealed brain abnormalities seen in both RTT and mental retardation. The abnormalities found include increases in cell packing density in the brain and a significant reduction in the complexity of neuronal dendritic branching. In contrast to some MeCP2 mutation mouse models, the A140V mouse has an apparently normal lifespan and normal weight gain patterns with no obvious seizures, tremors, breathing difficulties or kyphosis.


We have identified various neurological abnormalities in this mouse model of Rett syndrome/X-linked mental retardation which may help to elucidate the manner in which MECP2 mutations cause neuronal changes resulting in mental retardation without the confounding effects of seizures, chronic hypoventilation, or other Rett syndrome associated symptoms.