Defense Date


Graduation Date

Summer 2010


Immediate Access

Submission Type


Degree Name



Chemistry and Biochemistry


Bayer School of Natural and Environmental Sciences

Committee Chair

Mihaela-Rita Mihailescu

Committee Member

David Seybert

Committee Member

Mitchell Johnson

Committee Member

Charles Dameron


Fragile X Mental Retardation Protein, Fragile X Syndrome, G Quadruplex


The loss of expression of the fragile X mental retardation protein (FMRP) leads to fragile X syndrome. Fragile X syndrome is the most prevalent inheritable mental retardation. FMRP has two types of RNA binding domains, two K-homology domains and an arginine-glycine-glycine box domain, and is proposed to act as a translation regulator of specific mRNA. Despite extensive research, the mechanism by which FMRP loss leads to the fragile X syndrome remains unclear. Thus, there is high interest to produce sufficient quantities of pure recombinant FMRP for biochemical and biophysical studies of the protein function. However, the recombinant bacterial expression of FMRP has had limited success, and subsequent recombinant eukaryotic and in vitro systems may produce FMRP which is posttranslationally modified, as phosphorylation and arginine methylation have been shown to occur on FMRP. In this study, we have successfully isolated the conditions for recombinant expression, purification and dialysis of full-length FMRP using Escherichia coli, with a high yield. The expression of FMRP using E. coli renders the protein devoid of the posttranslational modifications of phosphorylation and arginine methylation, allowing for the further study of the direct effects of these modifications individually and simultaneously. Additionally, FMRP has been shown to undergo alternative splicing, with one of the splicing sites in close proximity to the FMRP domain shown to be involved in binding G quadruplex mRNA with high affinity and specificity. We have analyzed how naturally occurring truncations in the FMRP sequence affect its RNA binding affinity, by applying the expression, purification and dialysis process to the second and third longest FMRP isoforms, followed by subsequent analysis of the G quadruplex mRNA binding properties by fluorescence spectroscopy. Our results show that as FMRP gets truncated by alternative splicing, its mRNA binding affinity increases. To test a model we proposed for FMRP translation regulation activity, we developed a luciferase reporter gene construct that contains the G quadruplex structure in the mRNA 5'-untranslated region. Using luminescence spectroscopy to analyze luciferase translation, we showed that low levels of full-length FMRP reduces luciferase translation, and as the concentration of full-length FMRP increases the luciferase translation increases.