Quantitative localization of heterogeneous methyl-CpG-binding protein 2 (MeCP2) expression phenotypes in normal and Rett syndrome brain by laser scanning cytometry

Janine M LaSalle, Jared Goldstine, Damina Balmer, Claudia M. Greco

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

102 Scopus citations


Rett syndrome (RTT) is an X-linked, dominant neurodevelopmental disorder caused by mutations in MECP2, encoding the methyl-CpG-binding protein 2 (MeCP2). A major paradox in the pathogenesis of RTT is how mutations in ubiquitously transcribed MECP2 result in a phenotype specific to the central nervous system (CNS) during postnatal development. To address this question, we have used a novel approach for quantitating the level and distribution of wild-type and mutant MeCP2 in situ by immunofluorescence and laser scanning cytometry. Surprisingly, cellular heterogeneity in MeCP2 expression level was observed in normal brain with a subpopulation of cells exhibiting high expression (MeCP2hi) and the remainder exhibiting low expression (MeCP2lo). MeCP2 expression was significantly higher in CNS compared with non-CNS tissues of human and mouse by automated quantitation of MeCP2 on multiple tissue arrays. Quantitative localization of MeCP2 expression phenotypes in normal human brain showed a mosaic, but distinct, distribution pattern, with MeCP2hi neurons highest in layer IV of the cerebrum and MeCP2lo neurons highest in the granular layer of the cerebellum. In female RTT brains, MECP2 mutant-expressing cells were identified as cells negative for the MeCP2 C-terminal epitope. MECP2 mutant-expressing cells were randomly localized in Rett cerebrum and cerebellum and showed normal MeCP2 expression with N-terminal-specific anti-MeCP2. These results demonstrate a CNS-specific cellular phenotype of MeCP2 high expression and suggest that MECP2 mutations in RTT are only manifested in MeCP2hi cells. In addition, our results demonstrate the power of laser scanning cytometry in examining complex cellular phenotypes in disease pathogenesis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1729-1740
Number of pages12
JournalHuman Molecular Genetics
Issue number17
StatePublished - Aug 15 2001


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics

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