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Neuroscience. 2008 Jan 24;151(2):476-88. Epub 2007 Nov 17.

Phosphatase and tensin homolog, deleted on chromosome 10 deficiency in brain causes defects in synaptic structure, transmission and plasticity, and myelination abnormalities.

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Department of Developmental Neurobiology, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, 332 North Lauderdale, Memphis, TN 38105, USA.


The phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K) signaling pathway modulates growth, proliferation and cell survival in diverse tissue types and plays specialized roles in the nervous system including influences on neuronal polarity, dendritic branching and synaptic plasticity. The tumor-suppressor phosphatase with tensin homology (PTEN) is the central negative regulator of the PI3K pathway. Germline PTEN mutations result in cancer predisposition, macrocephaly and benign hamartomas in many tissues, including Lhermitte-Duclos disease, a cerebellar growth disorder. Neurological abnormalities including autism, seizures and ataxia have been observed in association with inherited PTEN mutation with variable penetrance. It remains unclear how loss of PTEN activity contributes to neurological dysfunction. To explore the effects of Pten deficiency on neuronal structure and function, we analyzed several ultra-structural features of Pten-deficient neurons in Pten conditional knockout mice. Using Golgi stain to visualize full neuronal morphology, we observed that increased size of nuclei and somata in Pten-deficient neurons was accompanied by enlarged caliber of neuronal projections and increased dendritic spine density. Electron microscopic evaluation revealed enlarged abnormal synaptic structures in the cerebral cortex and cerebellum. Severe myelination defects included thickening and unraveling of the myelin sheath surrounding hypertrophic axons in the corpus callosum. Defects in myelination of axons of normal caliber were observed in the cerebellum, suggesting intrinsic abnormalities in Pten-deficient oligodendrocytes. We did not observe these abnormalities in wild-type or conditional Pten heterozygous mice. Moreover, conditional deletion of Pten drastically weakened synaptic transmission and synaptic plasticity at excitatory synapses between CA3 and CA1 pyramidal neurons in the hippocampus. These data suggest that Pten is involved in mechanisms that control development of neuronal and synaptic structures and subsequently synaptic function.

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