Cardiac rhabdomyomas in tuberous sclerosis complex show apoptosis regulation and mTOR pathway abnormalities

Pediatr Dev Pathol. Mar-Apr 2009;12(2):89-95. doi: 10.2350/06-11-0191.1. Epub 2007 Jul 30.


Cardiac rhabdomyoma (CR) is the most common heart tumor in children and is usually associated with tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC). Tuberous sclerosis complex is a genetic disorder caused by a mutation in either of 2 genes (TSC1 or TSC2) and characterized by the formation of hamartomas in multiple organs. The 2 TSC proteins, hamartin and tuberin, antagonize the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) signaling pathway, thus regulating cell growth and proliferation. Recently, some trials treating TSC with the mTOR inhibitor rapamycin have been published; however, the impact of such treatment on heart tumors is not known. The aim of the present paper was to study the molecular pathobiology of CRs. Six CR samples were studied. The expression of S6K1, pErk, Erk, Akt, pAkt, 4E-BP1, hamartin, tuberin, mTOR, bcl-2, Bax, and Ki-67 was examined using immunohistochemistry and Western blot methods. Increased expression of Bax, mTOR, pS6K, pErk, and 4E-BP1 was found in all CR samples. Hamartin and tuberin expression was decreased in tumors versus normal heart tissues. This is the first study showing mTOR pathway dysregulation and an increased expression of proapoptotic Bax protein in CRs associated with TSC.

MeSH terms

  • Apoptosis*
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / metabolism
  • Blotting, Western
  • Child, Preschool
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique, Indirect
  • Heart Neoplasms / etiology
  • Heart Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Heart Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Protein Kinases / metabolism*
  • Rhabdomyoma / etiology
  • Rhabdomyoma / metabolism
  • Rhabdomyoma / pathology*
  • TOR Serine-Threonine Kinases
  • Tuberous Sclerosis / complications
  • Tuberous Sclerosis / metabolism
  • Tuberous Sclerosis / pathology*


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Protein Kinases
  • MTOR protein, human
  • TOR Serine-Threonine Kinases