Fragile X syndrome (FXS) is caused by loss of the FMR1 gene product FMRP (fragile X mental retardation protein), a repressor of mRNA translation. According to the metabotropic glutamate receptor (mGluR) theory of FXS, excessive protein synthesis downstream of mGluR5 activation causes the synaptic pathophysiology that underlies multiple aspects of FXS. Here, we use an in vitro assay of protein synthesis in the hippocampus of male Fmr1 knock-out (KO) mice to explore the molecular mechanisms involved in this core biochemical phenotype under conditions where aberrant synaptic physiology has been observed. We find that elevated basal protein synthesis in Fmr1 KO mice is selectively reduced to wild-type levels by acute inhibition of mGluR5 or ERK1/2, but not by inhibition of mTOR (mammalian target of rapamycin). The mGluR5-ERK1/2 pathway is not constitutively overactive in the Fmr1 KO, however, suggesting that mRNA translation is hypersensitive to basal ERK1/2 activation in the absence of FMRP. We find that hypersensitivity to ERK1/2 pathway activation also contributes to audiogenic seizure susceptibility in the Fmr1 KO. These results suggest that the ERK1/2 pathway, and other neurotransmitter systems that stimulate protein synthesis via ERK1/2, represent additional therapeutic targets for FXS.
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