A number of neurological disorders, including Rett Syndrome, X-linked mental retardation syndrome and some forms of autism, have been associated with mutations in a gene called Methyl-CpG-binding protein 2 (MeCP2). However, it is unclear exactly how decreased levels of MeCP2 alter the normal functional properties of the brain.
A recent study by TWRI Senior Scientist Dr. James Eubanks and TWRI Scientist Dr. Liang Zhang examined mice with decreased levels of MeCP2 within their home environment and found that they displayed a number of physiological differences. Specifically, these mice had decreased body temperature, indicative of impaired autonomic nervous system function—the control system for functions such as breathing, heart rate and body temperature regulation. Additionally, decreased MeCP2 levels altered the pattern and cycling of delta brain waves, which occur during the deepest level of sleep—a restorative period for the brain.
“These results suggest that MeCP2 plays an important role in the regulation and patterning of normal daily brain function and activity,” explains Dr. Eubanks. “Understanding how disruptions of MeCP2 levels affect normal processes provides greater insight into the basis of associated neurological disorders.”
Daily rhythmic behaviors and thermoregulatory patterns are disrupted in adult female MeCp2-deficient mice. Wither RG, Colic S, Wu C, Bardakjian BL, Zhang L, Eubanks JH. PLoS One. 2012. [Pubmed abstract]
This work was supported by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.