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Genomic analysis of the molecular neuropathology of tuberous sclerosis using a human stem cell model

Grabole, N., Zhang, J.D., Aigner, S., et al.

Background
Tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC) is a genetic disease characterized by benign tumor growths in multiple organs and neurological symptoms induced by mTOR hyperfunction. Because the molecular pathology is highly complex and the etiology poorly understood, we employed a defined human neuronal model with a single mTOR activating mutation to dissect the disease-relevant molecular responses driving the neuropathology and suggest new targets for treatment.

Methods
We investigate the disease phenotype of TSC by neural differentiation of a human stem cell model that had been deleted for TSC2 by genome editing. Comprehensive genomic analysis was performed by RNA sequencing and ribosome profiling to obtain a detailed genome-wide description of alterations on both the transcriptional and translational level. The molecular effect of mTOR inhibitors used in the clinic was monitored and comparison to published data from patient biopsies and mouse models highlights key pathogenic processes.

Results
TSC2-deficient neural stem cells showed severely reduced neuronal maturation and characteristics of astrogliosis instead. Transcriptome analysis indicated an active inflammatory response and increased metabolic activity, whereas at the level of translation ribosomal transcripts showed a 5’UTR motif-mediated increase in ribosome occupancy. Further, we observed enhanced protein synthesis rates of angiogenic growth factors. Treatment with mTOR inhibitors corrected translational alterations but transcriptional dysfunction persisted.

Conclusions
Our results extend the understanding of the molecular pathophysiology of TSC brain lesions, and suggest phenotype-tailored pharmacological treatment strategies.

Citation

Grabole, N., Zhang, J.D., Aigner, S., et al. "Genomic analysis of the molecular neuropathology of tuberous sclerosis using a human stem cell model" Genome Medicine (2016): 94