Neurobiol Dis 2016 08 14;92(Pt A):64-71. Epub 2015 May 14.
Center for Brain Immunology and Glia, Department of Neuroscience, Graduate Program in Neuroscience and Medical Scientist Training Program, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA 22908, USA. Electronic address:
Rett syndrome is a devastating neurodevelopmental disorder, primarily caused by mutations of methyl CpG-binding protein 2 (MeCP2). Although the genetic cause of disease was identified over a decade ago, a significant gap still remains in both our clinical and scientific understanding of its pathogenesis. Neurons are known to be primary players in pathology, with their dysfunction being the key in Rett syndrome. While studies in mice have demonstrated a clear causative - and potential therapeutic - role for neurons in Rett syndrome, recent work has suggested that other tissues also contribute significantly to progression of the disease. Indeed, Rett syndrome is known to present with several common peripheral pathologies, such as osteopenia, scoliosis, gastrointestinal problems including nutritional defects, and general growth deficit. Mouse models assessing the potential role of non-neuronal cell types have confirmed both roles in disease and potential therapeutic targets. A new picture is emerging in which neurons both initiate and drive pathology, while dysfunction of other cell types and peripheral tissues exacerbate disease, possibly amplifying further neurologic problems, and ultimately result in a positive feedback loop of progressively worsening symptoms. Here, we review what is known about neuronal and non-neuronal cell types, and discuss how this new, integrative understanding of the disease may allow for additional clinical and scientific pathways for treating and understanding Rett syndrome.