Characterization and reversal of synaptic defects in the amygdala in a mouse model of fragile X syndrome.
Fragile X syndrome (FXS), a common inherited form of mental impairment and autism, is caused by transcriptional silencing of the fragile X mental retardation 1 (FMR1) gene. Earlier studies have identified a role for aberrant synaptic plasticity mediated by the metabotropic glutamate receptors (mGluRs) in FXS. However, many of these observations are derived primarily from studies in the hippocampus. The strong emotional symptoms of FXS, on the other hand, are likely to involve the amygdala. Unfortunately, little is known about how exactly FXS affects synaptic function in the amygdala. Here, using whole-cell recordings in brain slices from adult Fmr1 knockout mice, we find mGluR-dependent long-term potentiation to be impaired at thalamic inputs to principal neurons in the lateral amygdala. Consistent with this long-term potentiation deficit, surface expression of the AMPA receptor subunit, GluR1, is reduced in the lateral amygdala of knockout mice. In addition to these postsynaptic deficits, lower presynaptic release was manifested by a decrease in the frequency of spontaneous miniature excitatory postsynaptic currents (mEPSCs), increased paired-pulse ratio, and slower use-dependent block of NMDA receptor currents. Strikingly, pharmacological inactivation of mGluR5 with 2-methyl-6-phenylethynyl-pyridine (MPEP) fails to rescue either the deficit in long-term potentiation or surface GluR1. However, the same acute MPEP treatment reverses the decrease in mEPSC frequency, a finding of potential therapeutic relevance. Therefore, our results suggest that synaptic defects in the amygdala of knockout mice are still amenable to pharmacological interventions against mGluR5, albeit in a manner not envisioned in the original hippocampal framework.