, Volume 7, Issue 3, pp 275-282

Targeted treatments for cognitive and neurodevelopmental disorders in tuberous sclerosis complex

Summary

Until recently, the neuropsychiatric phenotype of tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC) was presumed to be caused by the structural brain abnormalities and/or seizures seen in the disorder. However, advances in the molecular biology of the disorder have shown that TSC is a mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) overactivation syndrome, and that direct molecular pathways exist between gene mutation and cognitive/neurodevelopmental phenotype. Molecularly-targeted treatments using mTOR inhibitors (such as rapamycin) are showing great promise for the physical and neurological phenotype of TSC. Pre-clinical and early-phase clinical studies of the cognitive and neurodevelopmental features of TSC suggest that some of the neuropsychiatric phenotypes might also be reversible, even in adults with the disorder. TSC, fragile X, neurofibromatosis type 1, and disorders associated with phosphatase and tensin homo (PTEN) mutations, all signal through the mTOR signaling pathway, with the TSC1-TSC2 protein complex as a molecular switchboard at its center. Together, these disorders represent as much as 14% of autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Therefore, we suggest that this signaling pathway is a key to the underlying pathophysiology of a significant subset of individuals with ASD. The study of molecularly targeted treatments in TSC and related disorders, therefore, may be of scientific and clinical value not only to those with TSC, but to a larger population that may have a neuropsychiatric phenotype attributable to mTOR overactivation or dysregulation.