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Am J Pathol. 2013 Mar;182(3):646-67. doi: 10.1016/j.ajpath.2012.11.017. Epub 2013 Jan 13.

Transgenic mice overexpressing neuregulin-1 model neurofibroma-malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumor progression and implicate specific chromosomal copy number variations in tumorigenesis.

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Department of Pathology, The University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, Alabama 35294-0017, USA.


Patients with neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1) develop benign plexiform neurofibromas that frequently progress to become malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumors (MPNSTs). A genetically engineered mouse model that accurately models plexiform neurofibroma-MPNST progression in humans would facilitate identification of somatic mutations driving this process. We previously reported that transgenic mice overexpressing the growth factor neuregulin-1 in Schwann cells (P(0)-GGFβ3 mice) develop MPNSTs. To determine whether P(0)-GGFβ3 mice accurately model human neurofibroma-MPNST progression, cohorts of these animals were monitored through death and were necropsied; 94% developed multiple neurofibromas, with 70% carrying smaller numbers of MPNSTs. Nascent MPNSTs were identified within neurofibromas, suggesting that these sarcomas arise from neurofibromas. Although neurofibromin expression was maintained, P(0)-GGFβ3 MPNSTs exhibited Ras hyperactivation, as in human NF1-associated MPNSTs. P(0)-GGFβ3 MPNSTs also exhibited abnormalities in the p16(INK4A)-cyclin D/CDK4-Rb and p19(ARF)-Mdm-p53 pathways, analogous to their human counterparts. Array comparative genomic hybridization (CGH) demonstrated reproducible chromosomal alterations in P(0)-GGFβ3 MPNST cells (including universal chromosome 11 gains) and focal gains and losses affecting 39 neoplasia-associated genes (including Pten, Tpd52, Myc, Gli1, Xiap, and Bbc3/PUMA). Array comparative genomic hybridization also identified recurrent focal copy number variations affecting genes not previously linked to neurofibroma or MPNST pathogenesis. We conclude that P(0)-GGFβ3 mice represent a robust model of neurofibroma-MPNST progression useful for identifying novel genes driving neurofibroma and MPNST pathogenesis.

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