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Cell. 2012 Aug 17;150(4):816-30. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2012.06.034.

ERK inhibition rescues defects in fate specification of Nf1-deficient neural progenitors and brain abnormalities.

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Division of Molecular Medicine and Genetics, Department of Internal Medicine, University of Michigan Medical School, Ann Arbor, MI 48109, USA.


Germline mutations in the RAS/ERK signaling pathway underlie several related developmental disorders collectively termed neuro-cardio-facial-cutaneous (NCFC) syndromes. NCFC patients manifest varying degrees of cognitive impairment, but the developmental basis of their brain abnormalities remains largely unknown. Neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1), an NCFC syndrome, is caused by loss-of-function heterozygous mutations in the NF1 gene, which encodes neurofibromin, a RAS GTPase-activating protein. Here, we show that biallelic Nf1 inactivation promotes Erk-dependent, ectopic Olig2 expression specifically in transit-amplifying progenitors, leading to increased gliogenesis at the expense of neurogenesis in neonatal and adult subventricular zone (SVZ). Nf1-deficient brains exhibit enlarged corpus callosum, a structural defect linked to severe learning deficits in NF1 patients. Strikingly, these NF1-associated developmental defects are rescued by transient treatment with an MEK/ERK inhibitor during neonatal stages. This study reveals a critical role for Nf1 in maintaining postnatal SVZ-derived neurogenesis and identifies a potential therapeutic window for treating NF1-associated brain abnormalities.

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