Fluoxetine rescues rotarod motor deficits in Mecp2 heterozygous mouse model of Rett syndrome via brain serotonin

Claudia Villani, Giuseppina Sacchetti, Mirjana Carli, Roberto W Invernizzi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Motor skill is a specific area of disability of Rett syndrome (RTT), a rare disorder occurring almost exclusively in girls, caused by loss-of-function mutations of the X-linked methyl-CpG-binding protein2 (MECP2) gene, encoding the MECP2 protein, a member of the methyl-CpG-binding domain nuclear proteins family. Brain 5-HT, which is defective in RTT patients and Mecp2 mutant mice, regulates motor circuits and SSRIs enhance motor skill learning and plasticity. In the present study, we used heterozygous (Het) Mecp2 female and Mecp2-null male mice to investigate whether fluoxetine, a SSRI with pleiotropic effects on neuronal circuits, rescues motor coordination deficits. Repeated administration of 10 mg/kg fluoxetine fully rescued rotarod deficit in Mecp2 Het mice regardless of age, route of administration or pre-training to rotarod. The motor improvement was confirmed in the beam walking test while no effect was observed in the hanging-wire test, suggesting a preferential action of fluoxetine on motor coordination. Citalopram mimicked the effects of fluoxetine, while the inhibition of 5-HT synthesis abolished the fluoxetine-induced improvement of motor coordination. Mecp2 null mice, which responded poorly to fluoxetine in the rotarod, showed reduced 5-HT synthesis in the prefrontal cortex, hippocampus and striatum, and reduced efficacy of fluoxetine in raising extracellular 5-HT as compared to female mutants. No sex differences were observed in the ability of fluoxetine to desensitize 5-HT1A autoreceptors upon repeated administration. These findings indicate that fluoxetine rescues motor coordination in Mecp2 Het mice through its ability to enhance brain 5-HT and suggest that drugs enhancing 5-HT neurotransmission may have beneficial effects on motor symptoms of RTT.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)108221
Publication statusPublished - Oct 1 2020


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