Increased axonal bouton stability during learning in the mouse model of MECP2 duplication syndrome
MECP2-duplication syndrome is an X-linked form of syndromic autism caused by genomic duplication of the region encoding Methyl-CpG-binding protein 2. Mice overexpressing MECP2 demonstrate altered patterns of learning and memory, including enhanced motor learning. Previous work associated this enhanced motor learning to abnormally increased stability of dendritic spine clusters formed in the apical tuft of corticospinal, area M1, neurons during rotarod training. In the current study, we measure the structural plasticity of axonal boutons in Layer 5 (L5) pyramidal neuron projections to layer 1 of area M1 during motor learning. In wild-type mice we find that during rotarod training, bouton formation rate changes minimally, if at all, while bouton elimination rate doubles. Notably, the observed upregulation in bouton elimination with learning is absent in MECP2-duplication mice. This result provides further evidence of imbalance between structural stability and plasticity in this form of syndromic autism. Furthermore, the observation that axonal bouton elimination doubles with motor learning in wild-type animals contrasts with the increase of dendritic spine consolidation observed in corticospinal neurons at the same layer. This dissociation suggests that different area M1 microcircuits may manifest different patterns of structural synaptic plasticity during motor learning.
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