Fragile X syndrome is one of the most common forms of mental retardation, yet little is known about the physiological mechanisms causing the disease. In this study, we probed the ionotropic glutamate receptor content in synapses of hippocampal CA1 pyramidal neurons in a mouse model for fragile X (Fmr1 KO2). We found that Fmr1 KO2 mice display a significantly lower AMPA to NMDA ratio than wild-type mice at 2 weeks of postnatal development but not at 6-7 weeks of age. This ratio difference at 2 weeks postnatally is caused by down-regulation of the AMPA and up-regulation of the NMDA receptor components. In correlation with these changes, the induction of NMDA receptor-dependent long-term potentiation following a low-frequency pairing protocol is increased in Fmr1 KO2 mice at this developmental stage but not later in maturation. We propose that ionotropic glutamate receptors, as well as potentiation, are altered at a critical time point for hippocampal network development, causing long-term changes. Associated learning and memory deficits would contribute to the fragile X mental retardation phenotype.
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