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Fragile X Syndrome

By Yingratana McLennan, Jonathan Polussa, Flora Tassone and Randi Hagerman


Recent data from a national survey highlighted a significant difference in obesity rates in young fragile X males (31%) compared to age matched controls (18%). Fragile X syndrome (FXS) is the most common cause of intellectual disability in males and the most common single gene cause of autism. This X-linked disorder is caused by an expansion of a trinucleotide CGG repeat (>200) on the promotor region of the fragile X mental retardation 1 gene (FMR1). As a result, the promotor region often becomes methylated which leads to a deficiency or absence of the FMR1 protein (FMRP). Common characteristics of FXS include mild to severe cognitive impairments in males but less severe cognitive impairment in females. Physical features of FXS include an elongated face, prominent ears, and post-pubertal macroorchidism. Severe obesity in full mutation males is often associated with the Prader-Willi phenotype (PWP) which includes hyperphagia, lack of satiation after meals, and hypogonadism or delayed puberty; however, there is no deletion at 15q11-q13 nor uniparental maternal disomy. Herein, we discuss the molecular mechanisms leading to FXS and the Prader-Willi phenotype with an emphasis on mouse FMR1 knockout studies that have shown the reversal of weight increase through mGluR antagonists. Finally, we review the current medications used in treatment of FXS including the atypical antipsychotics that can lead to weight gain and the research regarding the use of targeted treatments in FXS that will hopefully have a significantly beneficial effect on cognition and behavior without weight gain

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