Genetic upregulation of BK channel activity normalizes multiple synaptic and circuit defects in a mouse model of fragile X syndrome

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Loss of fragile X mental retardation protein (FMRP) causes fragile X syndrome (FXS), yet the mechanisms underlying the pathophysiology of FXS are incompletely understood. Recent studies identified important new functions of FMRP in regulating neural excitability and synaptic transmission via both translation-dependent mechanisms and direct interactions of FMRP with a number of ion channels in the axons and presynaptic terminals. Among these presynaptic FMRP functions, FMRP interaction with large-conductance calcium-activated K+ (BK) channels, specifically their auxiliary β4 subunit, regulates action potential waveform and glutamate release in hippocampal and cortical pyramidal neurons. Given the multitude of ion channels and mechanisms that mediate presynaptic FMRP actions, it remains unclear, however, to what extent FMRP-BK channel interactions contribute to synaptic and circuit defects in FXS. To examine this question, we generated Fmr1/β4 double knockout (dKO) mice to genetically upregulate BK channel activity in the absence of FMRP and determine its ability to normalize multilevel defects caused by FMRP loss. Single-channel analyses revealed that FMRP loss reduced BK channel open probability, and this defect was compensated in dKO mice. Furthermore, dKO mice exhibited normalized action potential duration, glutamate release and short-term dynamics during naturalistic stimulus trains in hippocampal pyramidal neurons. BK channel upregulation was also sufficient to correct excessive seizure susceptibility in an in vitro model of seizure activity in hippocampal slices. Our studies thus suggest that upregulation of BK channel activity normalizes multi-level deficits caused by FMRP loss.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)83-97
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Physiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016


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