Neuronal hyperexcitability is one of the major characteristics of fragile X syndrome (FXS), yet the molecular mechanisms of this critical dysfunction remain poorly understood. Here we report a major role of voltage-independent potassium (K + )-channel dysfunction in hyperexcitability of CA3 pyramidal neurons in Fmr1 knock-out (KO) mice. We observed a reduction of voltage-independent small conductance calcium (Ca 2+ )-activated K + (SK) currents in both male and female mice, leading to decreased action potential (AP) threshold and reduced medium afterhyperpolarization. These SK-channel-dependent deficits led to markedly increased AP firing and abnormal input–output signal transmission of CA3 pyramidal neurons. The SK-current defect was mediated, at least in part, by loss of FMRP interaction with the SK channels (specifically the SK2 isoform), without changes in channel expression. Intracellular application of selective SK-channel openers or a genetic reintroduction of an N-terminal FMRP fragment lacking the ability to associate with polyribosomes normalized all observed excitability defects in CA3 pyramidal neurons of Fmr1 KO mice. These results suggest that dysfunction of voltage-independent SK channels is the primary cause of CA3 neuronal hyperexcitability in Fmr1 KO mice and support the critical translation-independent role for the fragile X mental retardation protein as a regulator of neural excitability. Our findings may thus provide a new avenue to ameliorate hippocampal excitability defects in FXS.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)28-43
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2 2019


  • Action potential
  • Excitability
  • FMRP
  • Presynaptic function
  • SK channels
  • Threshold


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