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Discussant – pathophysiologies of Rett syndrome

      Abstract

      Studies on sleep parameters of Rett syndrome revealed hypoactivity of the noradrenaline (NA) and the serotonin (5HT) neuron in early infancy while preserving the function of the dopamine (DA) and the cholinergic neurons of the pons normally. The sleep–wake cycle remains in its development at the level of 4 months of age. Polysomnographies also showed a decrease of the function of the nigrostriatal (NS)-DA neuron in early childhood and suggested the development of receptor supersensitivity in late childhood. Neurohistochemical and neuroimaging (PET) studies revealed the hypofunction of the NS-DA neuron with receptor supersensitivity and of involvement of the cholinergic neurons to the cortical pathology, whereas no substantial pathological or histochemical abnormalities were observed in the NA and the 5HT neurons in the brainstem. The decrease of tyrosine hydroxylase without neurodegenerative changes observed in the substantia nigra of Rett syndrome had similarity to the pathology caused by excitotoxic lesion of the pedunculopontine nuclei (PPN) observed in an animal experiments. Clinically the grade of disability of locomotion was shown to correlate to the grade of the disabilities of language. These clinical manifestations were also correlated to the specific loci of the mutation in the methyl binding domain of the MECP2 gene. In rodents the axons of the brainstem 5HT neuron involved in the morphogenesis of the brain in the early developmental course disappear in neonates without apoptotic or degenerative changes in the neurons. This period corresponds to the first 1.5–2 years in humans. Thus, in Rett syndrome, the primary lesion appears in the brainstem NA and 5HT neurons which affects development of synaptogenesis of the cortex and also dysfunction of the PPN. The latter causes dysfunction of the DA neuron and the cholinergic neuron in the midbrain. The mutation of the MECP2 gene may cause early transcription of the genes which prune the axons of the aminergic neurons for the developmental morphogenesis of the central nervous system in early infancy.

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