Insight into brain + learning via 'friend of fragile X' gene

We can learn a lot about somebody from the friends they hang out with. This applies to people and also to genes and proteins. Emory scientists have been investigating a gene that we will call — spoiler alert — “Friend of fragile X.”

Fragile X syndrome is the most common inherited form of intellectual disability, studied by research teams around the world with drug discovery and clinical trials in mind. It is caused by a disruption of the gene FMR1.

In an independent form of inherited intellectual disability found in a small number of Iranian families, a gene called ZC3H14 is mutated. Two papers from Ken Moberg, PhD, associate professor of cell biology, Anita Corbett, PhD, professor of biology and colleagues show that FMR1 and ZC3H14 are, in effect, friends. Both Drs. Moberg and Corbett are faculty members in the BCDB and GMB programs.

The findings provide new insight into the function of FMR1 as well as ZC3H14; the evidence comes from experiments performed in fruit flies and mice. The most recent paper is in the journal Cell Reports (open access).

Several labs at Emory contributed to the research, including those of human genetics chair and GMB faculty member Stephen Warren, PhD, cell biology chair and BCDB and NS faculty member Gary Bassell, PhD, and BCDB and NS faculty member James Zheng, PhD. The first author of the Cell Reports paper is Rick Bienkowski, PhD, a former Genetics and Molecular Biology graduate student.

Her lab's research on mice lacking ZC3H14, conducted with neuroscientists Paul Garcia, MD, PhD, and Andrew Escayg, PhD, was published in June in the journal Human Molecular Genetics. Dr. Garcia is a NS faculty member and Dr. Escayg is a faculty member in the GMB and NS programs.

Click here to view the full story in the Emory News Center. The story is also featured in Lab Land - The Emory Health Sciences Research Blog.