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Cancer Res. 2008 Dec 15;68(24):10358-66. doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-08-2506.

Increased c-Jun-NH2-kinase signaling in neurofibromatosis-1 heterozygous microglia drives microglia activation and promotes optic glioma proliferation.

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Department of Neurology, Washington University School of Medicine, St Louis, Missouri 63110, USA.


Neurofibromatosis-1 (NF1) is a common tumor predisposition syndrome in which affected individuals develop benign and malignant tumors. Previous studies from our laboratory and others have shown that benign tumor formation in Nf1 genetically engineered mice (GEM) requires a permissive tumor microenvironment. In the central nervous system, Nf1 loss in glia is insufficient for glioma formation unless coupled with Nf1 heterozygosity in the brain. Our subsequent studies identified Nf1+/- microglia as a critical cellular determinant of optic glioma growth in Nf1 GEM. Using NF1 as an experimental paradigm to further characterize the role of microglia in glioma growth, we first examined the properties of Nf1+/- microglia in vitro and in vivo. Nf1+/- microglia exhibit increased proliferation and motility and express elevated levels of genes associated with microglia activation. We further show that Nf1+/- microglia harbor high levels of activated c-Jun-NH(2)-kinase (JNK) without any significant changes in Akt, mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK), or p38-MAPK activity. In contrast, Nf1-/- astrocytes do not exhibit increased JNK activation. SP600125 inhibition of JNK activity in Nf1+/- microglia results in amelioration of the increased proliferation and motility phenotypes and reduces the levels of expression of activated microglia-associated transcripts. Moreover, SP600125 treatment of Nf1 optic glioma-bearing GEM results in reduced optic glioma proliferation in vivo. Collectively, these findings suggest that Nf1+/- microglia represent a good model system to study the role of specialized microglia in brain tumorigenesis and identify a unique Nf1 deregulated pathway for therapeutic studies aimed at abrogating microenvironmental signals that promote brain tumor growth.

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