, Volume 344, Issue 1-2, pp 267-276

The role of neurofibromin in N-Ras mediated AP-1 regulation in malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumors

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Plexiform neurofibromas commonly found in patients with Neurofibromatosis type I (NF1) have a 5% risk of being transformed into malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumors (MPNST). Germline mutations in the NF1 gene coding for neurofibromin, which is a Ras GTPase activating protein (RasGAP) and a negative regulator of Ras, result in an upregulation of the Ras pathway. We established a direct connection between neurofibromin deficiency and downstream effectors of Ras in cell lines from MPNST patients by demonstrating that knockdown of NF1 expression using siRNA in a NF1 wild type MPNST cell line, STS-26T, activates the Ras/ERK1,2 pathway and increases AP-1 binding and activity. We believe this is the first time the transactivation of AP-1 has been linked directly to neurofibromin deficiency in a disease relevant MPNST cell line. Previously, we have shown that N-Ras is constitutively activated in cell lines derived from independent MPNSTs from NF1 patients. We therefore sought to analyze the role of the N-Ras pathway in deregulating AP-1 transcriptional activity. We show that STS-26T clones conditionally expressing oncogenic N-Ras show increased phosphorylated ERK1,2 and phosphorylated JNK expression concomitant with increased AP-1 activity. MAP kinase pathways (ERK1,2 and JNK) were further examined in ST88-14, a neurofibromin-deficient MPNST cell line. The basal activity of ERK1,2 but not JNK was found to increase AP-1 activity. These experiments further confirmed the link between the loss of neurofibromin and increased activity of Ras/MAP kinase pathways and the activation of downstream transcriptional mechanisms in MPNSTs from NF1 patients.