Mutations in the ARHGEF6 gene, encoding the guanine nucleotide exchange factor αPIX/Cool-2 for the Rho GTPases Rac1 and Cdc42, cause X-linked intellectual disability (ID) in humans. We show here that αPix/Arhgef6 is primarily expressed in neuropil regions of the hippocampus. To study the role of αPix/Arhgef6 in neuronal development and plasticity and gain insight into the pathogenic mechanisms underlying ID, we generated αPix/Arhgef6-deficient mice. Gross brain structure in these mice appeared to be normal; however, analysis of Golgi-Cox-stained pyramidal neurons revealed an increase in both dendritic length and spine density in the hippocampus, accompanied by an overall loss in spine synapses. Early-phase long-term potentiation was reduced and long-term depression was increased in the CA1 hippocampal area of αPix/Arhgef6-deficient animals. Knockout animals exhibited impaired spatial and complex learning and less behavioral control in mildly stressful situations, suggesting that this model mimics the human ID phenotype. The structural and electrophysiological alterations in the hippocampus were accompanied by a significant reduction in active Rac1 and Cdc42, but not RhoA. In conclusion, we suggest that imbalance in activity of different Rho GTPases may underlie altered neuronal connectivity and impaired synaptic function and cognition in αPix/Arhgef6 knockout mice. Published by Oxford University Press 2011.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Biology