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J Neurosci. 2013 Feb 6;33(6):2419-31. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1840-12.2013.

Rheb activation in subventricular zone progenitors leads to heterotopia, ectopic neuronal differentiation, and rapamycin-sensitive olfactory micronodules and dendrite hypertrophy of newborn neurons.

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Department of Neurosurgery, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut 06520, USA.


Mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) hyperactivity in perinatal neural progenitor cells (NPCs) of tuberous sclerosis complex 1 (Tsc1) heterozygote mice leads to heterotopia and abnormal neuronal morphogenesis as seen in patients with tuberous sclerosis. Considering that pathological hyperactive mTOR also occurs in individuals carrying no genetic mutations, we examined whether increasing mTOR activity in neonatal NPCs of wild-type mice would recapitulate the above phenotypes. Electroporation of a plasmid encoding constitutively active Ras-homolog enriched in brain (Rheb(CA)) into subventricular zone NPCs increased mTOR activity in newborn cells. At 19 d post-electroporation (dpe), heterotopia and ectopic cells with a neuronal morphology were observed along the migratory path [rostral migratory stream (RMS)] and in the olfactory bulb (OB). These ectopic cells displayed action potentials and received synaptic inputs identifying them as synaptically integrated neurons. RMS heterotopias contained astrocytes, neurons, and entrapped neuroblasts. Immunostaining at 3 dpe revealed the presence of Mash1(+) Olig2(-) cells in the migratory route accompanied by ectopic neuronal differentiation and altered direction and speed of neuroblast migration at 7 dpe, suggesting a non-cell-autonomous disruption of migration. At >19 dpe, newborn Rheb(CA)-expressing neurons displayed altered distribution and formed micronodules in the OB. In addition, they displayed increased dendritic complexity along with altered membrane biophysics and increased frequency of GABAergic synaptic inputs. OB heterotopia, micronodules, and dendrite hypertrophy were notably prevented by rapamycin treatment, suggesting their mTOR dependence. Collectively, these data show that increasing mTOR activity in neonatal NPCs of wild-type mice recapitulate the pathologies observed in Tsc1 mutant mice. In addition, increased mTOR activity in individuals without known mutations could significantly impact neurogenesis and circuit formation.

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