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Human molecular genetics

New BRAF knockin mice provide a pathogenetic mechanism of developmental defects and a therapeutic approach in cardio-facio-cutaneous syndrome.


PMID 25035421

Abstract

Cardio-facio-cutaneous (CFC) syndrome is one of the 'RASopathies', a group of phenotypically overlapping syndromes caused by germline mutations that encode components of the RAS-MAPK pathway. Germline mutations in BRAF cause CFC syndrome, which is characterized by heart defects, distinctive facial features and ectodermal abnormalities. To define the pathogenesis and to develop a potential therapeutic approach in CFC syndrome, we here generated new knockin mice (here Braf(Q241R/+)) expressing the Braf Q241R mutation, which corresponds to the most frequent mutation in CFC syndrome, Q257R. Braf(Q241R/+) mice manifested embryonic/neonatal lethality, showing liver necrosis, edema and craniofacial abnormalities. Histological analysis revealed multiple heart defects, including cardiomegaly, enlarged cardiac valves, ventricular noncompaction and ventricular septal defects. Braf(Q241R/+) embryos also showed massively distended jugular lymphatic sacs and subcutaneous lymphatic vessels, demonstrating lymphatic defects in RASopathy knockin mice for the first time. Prenatal treatment with a MEK inhibitor, PD0325901, rescued the embryonic lethality with amelioration of craniofacial abnormalities and edema in Braf(Q241R/+) embryos. Unexpectedly, one surviving pup was obtained after treatment with a histone 3 demethylase inhibitor, GSK-J4, or NCDM-32b. Combination treatment with PD0325901 and GSK-J4 further increased the rescue from embryonic lethality, ameliorating enlarged cardiac valves. These results suggest that our new Braf knockin mice recapitulate major features of RASopathies and that epigenetic modulation as well as the inhibition of the ERK pathway will be a potential therapeutic strategy for the treatment of CFC syndrome.