Skip to main content

Neuron-Specific FMRP Roles in Experience-Dependent Remodeling of Olfactory Brain Innervation During an Early-life Critical Period


Golovin RM , Vest J , Broadie K . J Neurosci. 2021 1 4; ().


Critical periods are developmental windows during which neural circuits effectively adapt to the new sensory environment. Animal models of Fragile X syndrome (FXS), a common monogenic autism spectrum disorder (ASD), exhibit profound impairments of sensory experience-driven critical periods. However, it is not known whether the causative Fragile X Mental Retardation Protein (FMRP) acts uniformly across neurons, or instead manifests neuron-specific functions. Here, we use the genetically-tractable Drosophila brain antennal lobe (AL) olfactory circuit of both sexes to investigate neuron-specific FMRP roles in the odorant experience-dependent remodeling of the olfactory sensory neuron (OSN) innervation during an early-life critical period. We find targeted OSN class-specific FMRP RNAi impairs innervation remodeling within AL synaptic glomeruli, whereas global dfmr1 null mutants display relatively normal odorant-driven refinement. We find both OSN cell autonomous and cell non-autonomous FMRP functions mediate odorant experience-dependent remodeling, with AL circuit FMRP imbalance causing defects in overall glomerulus innervation refinement. We find OSN class-specific FMRP levels bidirectionally regulate critical period remodeling, with odorant experience selectively controlling OSN synaptic terminals in AL glomeruli. We find OSN class-specific FMRP loss impairs critical period remodeling by disrupting responses to lateral modulation from other odorant-responsive OSNs mediating overall AL gain control. We find that silencing glutamatergic AL interneurons reduces OSN remodeling, while conversely, interfering with the OSN class-specific GABAA signaling enhances remodeling. These findings reveal control of OSN synaptic remodeling by FMRP with neuron-specific circuit functions, and indicate how neural circuitry can compensate for global FMRP loss to reinstate normal critical period brain circuit remodeling. SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENTFragile X syndrome (FXS), the leading monogenic cause of intellectual disability (ID) and autism spectrum disorder (ASD), manifests severe neurodevelopmental delays. Likewise, FXS disease models display disrupted neurodevelopmental critical periods. In the well-mapped Drosophila olfactory circuit model, perturbing the causative Fragile X Mental Retardation Protein (FMRP) within a single olfactory sensory neuron (OSN) class impairs odorant-dependent remodeling during an early-life critical period. Importantly, this impairment requires activation of other OSNs, and the olfactory circuit can compensate when FMRP is removed from all OSNs. Understanding the neuron-specific FMRP requirements within a developing neural circuit, as well as the FMRP loss compensation mechanisms, should help us engineer FXS treatments. This work suggests FXS treatments could use homeostatic mechanisms to alleviate circuit-level deficits.