Biallelic Mutations in TSC2 Lead to Abnormalities Associated with Cortical Tubers in Human iPSC-Derived Neurons

J Neurosci. 2019 Nov 20;39(47):9294-9305. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0642-19.2019. Epub 2019 Oct 7.


Tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC) is a genetic disorder caused by mutations in TSC1 or TSC2 Patients frequently have epilepsy, autism spectrum disorder, and/or intellectual disability, as well as other systemic manifestations. In this study, we differentiated human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) from a female patient with TSC with one or two mutations in TSC2 into neurons using induced expression of NGN2 to examine neuronal dysregulation associated with the neurological symptoms in TSC. Using this method, neuronal differentiation was comparable between the three genotypes of iPSCs. We observed that TSC2+/- neurons show mTOR complex 1 (mTORC1) hyperactivation and associated increased cell body size and process outgrowth, as well as exacerbation of the abnormalities by loss of the second allele of TSC2 in TSC2-/- neurons. Interestingly, iPSC-derived neurons with either a single or biallelic mutation in TSC2 demonstrated hypersynchrony and downregulation of FMRP targets. However, only neurons with biallelic mutations of TSC2 demonstrated hyperactivity and transcriptional dysregulation observed in cortical tubers. These data demonstrate that loss of one allele of TSC2 is sufficient to cause some morphological and physiological changes in human neurons but that biallelic mutations in TSC2 are necessary to induce gene expression dysregulation present in cortical tubers. Finally, we found that treatment of iPSC-derived neurons with rapamycin reduced neuronal activity and partially reversed gene expression abnormalities, demonstrating that mTOR dysregulation contributes to both phenotypes. Therefore, biallelic mutations in TSC2 and associated molecular dysfunction, including mTOR hyperactivation, may play a role in the development of cortical tubers.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT In this study, we examined neurons derived from induced pluripotent stem cells with two, one, or no functional TSC2 (tuberous sclerosis complex 2) alleles and found that loss of one or both alleles of TSC2 results in mTORC1 hyperactivation and specific neuronal abnormalities. However, only biallelic mutations in TSC2 resulted in elevated neuronal activity and upregulation of cell adhesion genes that is also observed in cortical tubers. These data suggest that loss of heterozygosity of TSC1 or TSC2 may play an important role in the development of cortical tubers, and potentially epilepsy, in patients with TSC.

Keywords: FMRP; TSC2; cortical tuber; iPSC; mTOR; tuberous sclerosis.

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

  • Alleles*
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells / pathology
  • Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells / physiology*
  • Male
  • Mutation / genetics*
  • Neurons / pathology
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Tuberous Sclerosis / genetics*
  • Tuberous Sclerosis / pathology
  • Tuberous Sclerosis Complex 2 Protein / genetics*


  • TSC2 protein, human
  • Tuberous Sclerosis Complex 2 Protein

Supplementary concepts

  • Tuberous Sclerosis 2