A molecular basis for neurofibroma-associated skeletal manifestations in NF1

Genet Med. 2020 Nov;22(11):1786-1793. doi: 10.1038/s41436-020-0885-3. Epub 2020 Jun 30.


Purpose: Plexiform neurofibromas (pNF) develop in children with neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1) and can be associated with several skeletal comorbidities. Preclinical mouse studies revealed Nf1 deficiency in osteoprogenitor cells disrupts, in a MEK-dependent manner, pyrophosphate (PPi) homeostasis and skeletal mineralization. The etiology of NF-associated skeletal manifestations remains unknown.

Methods: We used mouse models of NF1 neurofibromas to assess bone mineralization of skeletal structures adjacent to tumors. Expression of genes involved in pyrophosphate homeostasis was assessed in mouse and human NF tumors and Schwann cell cultures. We used dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) to assess tumor-associated changes in bone mineral density (BMD) in an individual with NF1 following treatment with the MEK inhibitor selumetinib.

Results: We detected increased nonmineralized bone surfaces adjacent to tumors in mouse models of NF1 neurofibromas. Expression of Enpp1, a PPi-generating ectophosphatase, and ANKH, a PPi transporter, was increased in mouse and human neurofibroma-derived tissues and Schwann cells, respectively. In one patient, tumor-associated reductions in BMD were partially rescued following therapy with selumetinib.

Conclusion: Results indicate that NF-associated skeletal pathologies in NF1 are associated with dysregulated pyrophosphate homeostasis in adjacent NF tumors and suggest that treatment of NFs with MEK inhibitors may improve skeletal manifestations of the disease.

Keywords: MEK inhibitor; bone mineralization; neurofibromas; neurofibromatosis; pyrophosphate.

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
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Neurofibroma*
  • Neurofibroma, Plexiform* / genetics
  • Neurofibromatosis 1* / genetics
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors
  • Schwann Cells


  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors