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A TrkB agonist and ampakine rescue synaptic plasticity and multiple forms of memory in a mouse model of intellectual disability.

  • Author(s): Seese, Ronald R
  • Le, Aliza A
  • Wang, Kathleen
  • Cox, Conor D
  • Lynch, Gary
  • Gall, Christine M
  • et al.

Fragile X syndrome (FXS) is associated with deficits in various types of learning, including those that require the hippocampus. Relatedly, hippocampal long-term potentiation (LTP) is impaired in the Fmr1 knockout (KO) mouse model of FXS. Prior research found that infusion of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) rescues LTP in the KOs. Here, we tested if, in Fmr1 KO mice, up-regulating BDNF production or treatment with an agonist for BDNF's TrkB receptor restores synaptic plasticity and improves learning. In hippocampal slices, bath infusion of the TrkB agonist 7,8-dihydroxyflavone (7,8-DHF) completely restored otherwise impaired hippocampal field CA1 LTP of Fmr1 KOs without effect in wild types (WTs). Similarly, acute, semi-chronic, or chronic treatments with 7,8-DHF rescued a simple hippocampus-dependent form of spatial learning (object location memory: OLM) in Fmr1 KOs without effect in WTs. The agonist also restored object recognition memory, which depends on cortical regions. Semi-chronic, but not acute, treatment with the ampakine CX929, which up-regulates BDNF expression, lowered the training threshold for OLM in WT mice and rescued learning in the KOs. Positive results were also obtained in a test for social recognition. An mGluR5 antagonist did not improve learning. Quantification of synaptic immunolabeling demonstrated that 7,8-DHF and CX929 increase levels of activated TrkB at excitatory synapses. Moreover, CX929 induced a robust synaptic activation of the TrkB effector ERK1/2. These results suggest that enhanced synaptic BDNF signaling constitutes a plausible strategy for treating certain aspects of the cognitive disabilities associated with FXS.

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