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FMRP Levels in Human Peripheral Blood Leukocytes Correlates with Intellectual Disability


Fragile X syndrome (FXS) is the most common form of inherited intellectual disability. FXS is an X-linked, neurodevelopmental disorder caused by a CGG trinucleotide repeat expansion in the 5' untranslated region (UTR) of the Fragile X Mental Retardation gene, FMR1. Greater than 200 CGG repeats results in epigenetic silencing of the gene leading to the deficiency or absence of Fragile X mental retardation protein (FMRP). The loss of FMRP is considered the root cause of FXS. The relationship between neurological function and FMRP expression in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) has not been well established. Assays to detect and measure FMR1 and FMRP have been described; however, none are sufficiently sensitive, precise, or quantitative to properly characterize the relationships between cognitive ability and CGG repeat number, FMR1 mRNA expression, or FMRP expression measured in PBMCs. To address these limitations, two novel immunoassays were developed and optimized, an electro-chemiluminescence immunoassay and a multiparameter flow cytometry assay. Both assays were performed on PMBCs isolated from 27 study participants with FMR1 CGG repeats ranging from normal to full mutation. After correcting for methylation, a significant positive correlation between CGG repeat number and FMR1 mRNA expression levels and a significant negative correlation between FMRP levels and CGG repeat expansion was observed. Importantly, a high positive correlation was observed between intellectual quotient (IQ) and FMRP expression measured in PBMCs.

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