Fetal brain mTOR signaling activation in tuberous sclerosis complex

Cereb Cortex. 2014 Feb;24(2):315-27. doi: 10.1093/cercor/bhs310. Epub 2012 Oct 18.


Tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC) is characterized by developmental malformations of the cerebral cortex known as tubers, comprised of cells that exhibit enhanced mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) signaling. To date, there are no reports of mTORC1 and mTORC2 activation in fetal tubers or in neural progenitor cells lacking Tsc2. We demonstrate mTORC1 activation by immunohistochemical detection of substrates phospho-p70S6K1 (T389) and phospho-S6 (S235/236), and mTORC2 activation by substrates phospho-PKCα (S657), phospho-Akt (Ser473), and phospho-SGK1 (S422) in fetal tubers. Then, we show that Tsc2 shRNA knockdown (KD) in mouse neural progenitor cells (mNPCs) in vitro results in enhanced mTORC1 (phospho-S6, phospho-4E-BP1) and mTORC2 (phospho-Akt and phospho-NDRG1) signaling, as well as a doubling of cell size that is rescued by rapamycin, an mTORC1 inhibitor. Tsc2 KD in vivo in the fetal mouse brain by in utero electroporation causes disorganized cortical lamination and increased cell volume that is prevented with rapamycin. We demonstrate for the first time that mTORC1 and mTORC2 signaling is activated in fetal tubers and in mNPCs following Tsc2 KD. These results suggest that inhibition of mTOR pathway signaling during embryogenesis could prevent abnormal brain development in TSC.

Keywords: TSC2; epilepsy; fetal tuber; rapamycin; tuberous sclerosis complex.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Brain / drug effects
  • Brain / embryology*
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Cell Movement / drug effects
  • Cell Movement / physiology
  • Cell Size / drug effects
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mechanistic Target of Rapamycin Complex 1
  • Mechanistic Target of Rapamycin Complex 2
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Multiprotein Complexes / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Multiprotein Complexes / metabolism*
  • Myelin Sheath / drug effects
  • Myelin Sheath / physiology
  • Neural Stem Cells / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects
  • Sirolimus / pharmacology
  • TOR Serine-Threonine Kinases / antagonists & inhibitors
  • TOR Serine-Threonine Kinases / metabolism*
  • Tuberous Sclerosis Complex 2 Protein
  • Tumor Suppressor Proteins / genetics
  • Tumor Suppressor Proteins / metabolism*


  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Multiprotein Complexes
  • TSC2 protein, human
  • Tsc2 protein, mouse
  • Tuberous Sclerosis Complex 2 Protein
  • Tumor Suppressor Proteins
  • TOR Serine-Threonine Kinases
  • Mechanistic Target of Rapamycin Complex 1
  • Mechanistic Target of Rapamycin Complex 2
  • Sirolimus