Neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1) is a common neurogenetic condition characterized by significant clinical heterogeneity. A major barrier to developing precision medicine approaches for NF1 is an incomplete understanding of the factors that underlie its inherent variability. To determine the impact of the germline NF1 gene mutation on the optic gliomas frequently encountered in children with NF1, we developed genetically engineered mice harboring two representative NF1-patient-derived Nf1 gene mutations (c.2542G>C;p.G848R and c.2041C>T;p.R681X). We found that each germline Nf1 gene mutation resulted in different levels of neurofibromin expression. Importantly, only R681XCKO but not G848RCKO, mice develop optic gliomas with increased optic nerve volumes, glial fibrillary acid protein immunoreactivity, proliferation and retinal ganglion cell death, similar to Nf1 conditional knockout mice harboring a neomycin insertion (neo) as the germline Nf1 gene mutation. These differences in optic glioma phenotypes reflect both cell-autonomous and stromal effects of the germline Nf1 gene mutation. In this regard, primary astrocytes harboring the R681X germline Nf1 gene mutation exhibit increased basal astrocyte proliferation (BrdU incorporation) indistinguishable from neoCKO astrocytes, whereas astrocytes with the G848R mutation have lower levels of proliferation. Evidence for paracrine effects from the tumor microenvironment were revealed when R681XCKO mice were compared with conventional neoCKO mice. Relative to neoCKO mice, the optic gliomas from R681XCKO mice had more microglia infiltration and JNKThr183/Tyr185 activation, microglia-produced Ccl5, and glial AKTThr308 activation. Collectively, these studies establish that the germline Nf1 gene mutation is a major determinant of optic glioma development and growth through by both tumor cell-intrinsic and stromal effects.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberddw039
Pages (from-to)1703-1713
Number of pages11
JournalHuman molecular genetics
Issue number9
StatePublished - May 1 2016


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