Nf1-dependent tumors require a microenvironment containing Nf1+/-- and c-kit-dependent bone marrow

Cell. 2008 Oct 31;135(3):437-48. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2008.08.041.


Interactions between tumorigenic cells and their surrounding microenvironment are critical for tumor progression yet remain incompletely understood. Germline mutations in the NF1 tumor suppressor gene cause neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1), a common genetic disorder characterized by complex tumors called neurofibromas. Genetic studies indicate that biallelic loss of Nf1 is required in the tumorigenic cell of origin in the embryonic Schwann cell lineage. However, in the physiologic state, Schwann cell loss of heterozygosity is not sufficient for neurofibroma formation and Nf1 haploinsufficiency in at least one additional nonneoplastic lineage is required for tumor progression. Here, we establish that Nf1 heterozygosity of bone marrow-derived cells in the tumor microenvironment is sufficient to allow neurofibroma progression in the context of Schwann cell Nf1 deficiency. Further, genetic or pharmacologic attenuation of c-kit signaling in Nf1+/- hematopoietic cells diminishes neurofibroma initiation and progression. Finally, these studies implicate mast cells as critical mediators of tumor initiation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Benzamides
  • Bone Marrow / physiopathology
  • Bone Marrow Transplantation
  • Child, Preschool
  • Genes, Neurofibromatosis 1
  • Humans
  • Imatinib Mesylate
  • Mast Cells / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Neurofibroma / drug therapy
  • Neurofibroma / genetics
  • Neurofibroma / metabolism*
  • Neurofibroma / pathology
  • Neurofibroma, Plexiform / drug therapy
  • Neurofibroma, Plexiform / metabolism
  • Neurofibromin 1 / metabolism*
  • Piperazines / therapeutic use
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-kit / metabolism*
  • Pyrimidines / therapeutic use
  • Schwann Cells / metabolism


  • Benzamides
  • Neurofibromin 1
  • Piperazines
  • Pyrimidines
  • Imatinib Mesylate
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-kit