Consequences of NMDA receptor deficiency can be rescued in the adult brain


N-methyl-D-aspartate receptors (NMDARs) are required to shape activity-dependent connections in the developing and adult brain. Impaired NMDAR signalling through genetic or environmental insults causes a constellation of neurodevelopmental disorders that manifest as intellectual disability, epilepsy, autism, or schizophrenia. It is not clear whether the developmental impacts of NMDAR dysfunction can be overcome by interventions in adulthood. This question is paramount for neurodevelopmental disorders arising from mutations that occur in the GRIN genes, which encode NMDAR subunits, and the broader set of mutations that disrupt NMDAR function. We developed a mouse model where a congenital loss-of-function allele of Grin1 can be restored to wild type by gene editing with Cre recombinase. Rescue of NMDARs in adult mice yields surprisingly robust improvements in cognitive functions, including those that are refractory to treatment with current medications. These results suggest that neurodevelopmental disorders arising from NMDAR deficiency can be effectively treated in adults.