, Volume 37, Issue 1, pp 31-50
Date: 11 Oct 2006

Deletion of the Coffin–Lowry Syndrome Gene Rsk2 in Mice is Associated With Impaired Spatial Learning and Reduced Control of Exploratory Behavior

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Coffin–Lowry Syndrome (CLS) is an X-linked syndromic form of mental retardation associated with skeletal abnormalities. It is caused by mutations of the Rsk2 gene, which encodes a growth factor regulated kinase. Gene deletion studies in mice have shown an essential role for the Rsk2 gene in osteoblast differentiation and function, establishing a causal link between Rsk2 deficiency and skeletal abnormalities of CLS. Although analyses in mice have revealed prominent expression of Rsk2 in brain structures that are essential for learning and memory, evidence at the behavioral level for an involvement of Rsk2 in cognitive function is still lacking. Here, we have examined Rsk2-deficient mice in two extensive batteries of behavioral tests, which were conducted independently in two laboratories in Zurich (Switzerland) and Orsay (France). Despite the known reduction of bone mass, all parameters of motor function were normal, confirming the suitability of Rsk2-deficient mice for behavioral testing. Rsk2-deficient mice showed a mild impairment of spatial working memory, delayed acquisition of a spatial reference memory task and long-term spatial memory deficits. In contrast, associative and recognition memory, as well as the habituation of exploratory activity were normal. Our studies also revealed mild signs of disinhibition in exploratory activity, as well as a difficulty to adapt to new test environments, which likely contributed to the learning impairments displayed by Rsk2-deficient mice. The observed behavioral changes are in line with observations made in other mouse models of human mental retardation and support a role of Rsk2 in cognitive functions.

Edited by Andrew Holmes