mTORC2 Inhibition Improves Morphological Effects of PTEN Loss, But Does Not Correct Synaptic Dysfunction or Prevent Seizures

J Neurosci. 2023 Feb 1;43(5):827-845. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1354-22.2022. Epub 2022 Dec 16.


Hyperactivation of PI3K/PTEN-mTOR signaling during neural development is associated with focal cortical dysplasia (FCD), autism, and epilepsy. mTOR can signal through two major hubs, mTORC1 and mTORC2, both of which are hyperactive following PTEN loss of function (LOF). Here, we tested the hypothesis that genetic inactivation of the mTORC2 complex via deletion of Rictor is sufficient to rescue morphologic and electrophysiological abnormalities in the dentate gyrus caused by PTEN loss, as well as generalized seizures. An established, early postnatal mouse model of PTEN loss in male and female mice showed spontaneous seizures that were not prevented by mTORC2 inactivation. This lack of rescue occurred despite the normalization or amelioration of many morphologic and electrophysiological phenotypes. However, increased excitatory connectivity proximal to dentate gyrus granule neuron somas was not normalized by mTORC2 inactivation. Further studies demonstrated that, although mTORC2 inactivation largely rescued the dendritic arbor overgrowth caused by PTEN LOF, it increased synaptic strength and caused additional impairments of presynaptic function. These results suggest that a constrained increase in excitatory connectivity and co-occurring synaptic dysfunction is sufficient to generate seizures downstream of PTEN LOF, even in the absence of characteristic changes in morphologic properties.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT Homozygous deletion of the Pten gene in neuronal subpopulations in the mouse serves as a valuable model of epilepsy caused by mTOR hyperactivation. To better understand the physiological mechanisms downstream of Pten loss that cause epilepsy, as well as the therapeutic potential of targeted gene therapies, we tested whether genetic inactivation of the mTORC2 complex could improve the cellular, synaptic, and in vivo effects of Pten loss in the dentate gyrus. We found that mTORC2 inhibition improved or rescued all morphologic effects of Pten loss in the dentate gyrus, but synaptic changes and seizures persisted. These data suggest that synaptic dysfunction can drive epilepsy caused by hyperactivation of PI3K/PTEN-mTOR, and that future therapies should focus on this mechanistic link.

Keywords: dentate gyrus; epilepsy; mTOR; mTORC1; mTORC2; synaptic transmission.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Epilepsy* / genetics
  • Female
  • Homozygote
  • Male
  • Mechanistic Target of Rapamycin Complex 2 / genetics
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • PTEN Phosphohydrolase / genetics
  • Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases
  • Seizures*
  • Sequence Deletion
  • TOR Serine-Threonine Kinases / genetics


  • Mechanistic Target of Rapamycin Complex 2
  • TOR Serine-Threonine Kinases
  • PTEN Phosphohydrolase
  • Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases