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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2008 Dec 2;105(48):18930-5. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0806556105. Epub 2008 Nov 18.

Role of ERK1/2 signaling in congenital valve malformations in Noonan syndrome.

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  • 1Department of Pediatrics, Division of Molecular Cardiovascular Biology, Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, Cincinnati, OH 45229-3039, USA.


Noonan syndrome (NS) is the most common nonchromosomal genetic disorder associated with cardiovascular malformations. The most prominent cardiac defects in NS are pulmonary valve stenosis and hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. Gain-of-function mutations in the protein tyrosine phosphatase Shp2 have been identified in 50% of NS families. We created a NS mouse model with selective overexpression of mutant Shp2 (Q79R-Shp2) in the developing endocardial cushions. In our model, Cre recombinase driven by the Tie2 promoter irreversibly activates transgenic Q79R-Shp2 expression in the endothelial-derived cell lineage. Q79R-Shp2 expression resulted in embryonic lethality by embryonic day 14.5. Importantly, mutant embryos showed significantly enlarged endocardial cushions in the atrioventricular canal and in the outflow tract. In contrast, overexpression of wild-type Shp2 protein at comparable levels did not enhance endocardial cushion growth or alter the morphology of the mature adult valves. Expression of Q79R-Shp2 was accompanied by increased ERK1/2 activation in a subset of cells within the cushion mesenchyme, suggesting that hyperactivation of this signaling pathway may play a pathogenic role. To test this hypothesis in vivo, Q79R-Shp2-expressing mice were crossed with mice carrying either a homozygous ERK1 or a heterozygous ERK2 deletion. Deletion of ERK1 completely rescued the endocardial cushion phenotype, whereas ERK2 protein reduction did not affect endocardial cushion size. Constitutive hyperactivation of ERK1/2 signaling alone with a transgenic approach resulted in a phenocopy of the valvular phenotype. The data demonstrate both necessity and sufficiency of increased ERK activation downstream of Shp2 in mediating abnormal valve development in a NS mouse model.

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