Mutations in the gene are responsible for the neurodevelopmental disorder Rett syndrome (RTT). MeCP2 is a DNA-binding protein whose abundance and ability to complex with histone deacetylase 3 is linked to the regulation of chromatin structure. Consequently, loss-of-function mutations in MeCP2 are predicted to have broad effects on gene expression. However, to date, studies in mouse models of RTT have identified a limited number of gene or pathway-level disruptions, and even fewer genes have been identified that could be considered amenable to classic drug discovery approaches. Here, we performed RNA sequencing (RNA-seq) on nine motor cortex and six cerebellar autopsy samples from RTT patients and controls. This approach identified 1887 significantly affected genes in the motor cortex and 2110 genes in the cerebellum, with a global trend toward increased expression. Pathway-level analysis identified enrichment in genes associated with mitogen-activated protein kinase signaling, long-term potentiation, and axon guidance. A survey of our RNA-seq results also identified a significant decrease in expression of the gene, which encodes a receptor [muscarinic acetylcholine receptor 4 (M)] that is the subject of multiple large drug discovery efforts for schizophrenia and Alzheimer's disease. We confirmed that expression was decreased in RTT patients, and, excitingly, we demonstrated that M potentiation normalizes social and cognitive phenotypes in mice. This work provides an experimental paradigm in which translationally relevant targets can be identified using transcriptomics in RTT autopsy samples, back-modeled in mice, and assessed for preclinical efficacy using existing pharmacological tool compounds.
Copyright © 2018 by The American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics.