Transcriptional regulation of the MET receptor tyrosine kinase gene by MeCP2 and sex-specific expression in autism and Rett syndrome

J. T. Plummer, O. V. Evgrafov, M. Y. Bergman, M. Friez, C. A. Haiman, P. Levitt, K. A. Aldinger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


Single nucleotide variants (SNV) in the gene encoding the MET receptor tyrosine kinase have been associated with an increased risk for autism spectrum disorders (ASD). The MET promoter SNV rs1858830 C 'low activity' allele is enriched in ASD, associated with reduced protein expression, and impacts functional and structural circuit connectivity in humans. To gain insight into the transcriptional regulation of MET on ASD-risk etiology, we examined an interaction between the methyl CpG-binding protein 2 (MeCP2) and the MET 5′ promoter region. Mutations in MeCP2 cause Rett syndrome (RTT), a predominantly female neurodevelopmental disorder sharing some ASD clinical symptoms. MeCP2 binds to a region of the MET promoter containing the ASD-risk SNV, and displays rs1858830 genotype-specific binding in human neural progenitor cells derived from the olfactory neuroepithelium. MeCP2 binding enhances MET expression in the presence of the rs1858830 C allele, but MET transcription is attenuated by RTT-specific mutations in MeCP2. In the postmortem temporal cortex, a region normally enriched in MET, gene expression is reduced dramatically in females with RTT, although not due to enrichment of the rs1858830 C 'low activity' allele. We newly identified a sex-based reduction in MET expression, with male ASD cases, but not female ASD cases compared with sex-matched controls. The experimental data reveal a prominent allele-specific regulation of MET transcription by MeCP2. The mechanisms underlying the pronounced reduction of MET in ASD and RTT temporal cortex are distinct and likely related to factors unique to each disorder, including a noted sex bias.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere316
JournalTranslational psychiatry
StatePublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Biological Psychiatry


  • autistic disorder
  • gene expression regulation
  • methyl-CpG-binding protein 2


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