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Susco, Sara G; Arias-Garcia, Mario A; Lopez-Huerta, Violeta G; Beccard, Amanda; Bara, Anne M; Moffitt, Jessica; Korn, Justin; Fu, Zhanyan; Barrett, Lindy E (2020)

FMR1 LOSS IN A HUMAN STEM CELL MODEL REVEALS EARLY CHANGES TO INTRINSIC MEMBRANE EXCITABILITY

Dev Biol 468(1-2):93-100
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Fragile X mental retardation 1 (FMR1) encodes the RNA binding protein FMRP. Loss of FMRP drives Fragile X syndrome (FXS), the leading inherited cause of intellectual disability and a leading monogenic cause of autism. While cortical hyperexcitability is a hallmark of FXS, the reported phenotypes and underlying mechanisms, including alterations in synaptic transmission and ion channel properties, are heterogeneous and at times contradictory. Here, we report the generation of new isogenic FMR1 and FMR1 human pluripotent stem cell (hPSC) lines using CRISPR-Cas9 to facilitate the study of how complete FMRP loss, independent of genetic background, drives molecular and cellular alterations relevant for FXS. After differentiating these stem cell tools into excitatory neurons, we systematically assessed the impact of FMRP loss on intrinsic membrane and synaptic properties over time. Using whole-cell patch clamp analyses, we found that FMR1 neurons overall showed an increased intrinsic membrane excitability compared to age-matched FMR1 controls, with no discernable alternations in synaptic transmission. Surprisingly, longitudinal analyses of cell intrinsic defects revealed that a majority of significant changes emerged early following in vitro differentiation and some were not stable over time. Collectively, this study provides a new isogenic hPSC model which can be further leveraged by the scientific community to investigate basic mechanisms of FMR1 gene function relevant for FXS. Moreover, our results suggest that precocious changes in the intrinsic membrane properties during early developmental could be a critical cellular pathology ultimately contributing to cortical hyperexcitability in FXS.