Neurofibromatosis-1 heterozygosity impairs CNS neuronal morphology in a cAMP/PKA/ROCK-dependent manner

Jacquelyn A. Brown, Kelly A. Diggs-Andrews, Scott M. Gianino, David H. Gutmann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations

Abstract

Children with the neurofibromatosis-1 (NF1) cancer predisposition syndrome exhibit numerous clinical problems that reflect defective central nervous system (CNS) neuronal function, including learning disabilities, attention deficit disorder, and seizures. These clinical features result from reduced NF1 protein (neurofibromin) expression in NF1+/- (NF1 heterozygosity) brain neurons. Previous studies have shown that mouse CNS neurons are sensitive to the effects of reduced Nf1 expression and exhibit shorter neurite lengths, smaller growth cone areas, and attenuated survival, reflecting attenuated neurofibromin cAMP regulation. In striking contrast, Nf1+/- peripheral nervous system (PNS) neurons are nearly indistinguishable from their wild-type counterparts, and complete neurofibromin loss leads to increased neurite lengths and survival in a RAS/Akt-dependent fashion. To gain insights into the differential responses of CNS and PNS neurons to reduced neurofibromin function, we designed a series of experiments to define the molecular mechanism(s) underlying the unique CNS neuronal sensitivity to Nf1 heterozygosity. First, Nf1 heterozygosity decreases cAMP levels in CNS, but not in PNS, neurons. Second, CNS neurons exhibit Nf1 gene-dependent increases in RAS pathway signaling, but no further decreases in cAMP levels were observed in Nf1-/- CNS neurons relative to their Nf1+/- counterparts. Third, neurofibromin regulates CNS neurite length and growth cone areas in a cAMP/PKA/Rho/ROCK-dependent manner in vitro and in vivo. Collectively, these findings establish cAMP/PKA/Rho/ROCK signaling as the responsible axis underlying abnormal Nf1+/- CNS neuronal morphology with important implications for future preclinical and clinical studies aimed at improving cognitive and behavioral deficits in mice and children with reduced brain neuronal NF1 gene expression.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)13-22
Number of pages10
JournalMolecular and Cellular Neuroscience
Volume49
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 2012

Keywords

  • Brain neurons
  • Cyclic AMP
  • Neurite extension
  • Neurofibromin
  • Rho

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