Tuberous Sclerosis Complex (TSC) is a multisystem genetic disorder affecting several organs. Individuals with TSC suffer from refractory epilepsy, intellectual disabilities and autism spectrum disorder, and the neurological manifestations are often the most disabling for these patients. Central nervous system (CNS) manifestations include disorganized brain connectivity, increased astrogliosis, and presence of immature dysmorphic neurons. Despite the fact that increased mTORC1 activity has been clearly implicated in the brain manifestations of TSC, a critical unmet medical need remains to identify the downstream molecular pathways implicated in the abnormal brain development. Ciliopathies are genetic disorders caused by mutations in genes affecting primary cilia which are sensory cellular antenna with a role in brain homeostasis and development, thought to act as a key regulatory node for sonic hedgehog signaling. Ciliopathies encompass a range of genetic disorders that share ciliary dysfunction and can affect several organs, including the brain. This proposal builds on robust in vitro and in vivo data indicating that certain brain abnormalities of TSC recapitulate the manifestations of ciliopathies with alteration in the Shh signaling pathway. In particular, we found reduced ciliation in Tsc2-knockdown hippocampal neurons, in neuronal-specific Tsc1 and Tsc2 conditional knockout mouse models and in the giant cells of the cortical tubers of TSC patients. Notably, defective ciliogenesis was associated with an altered Shh signaling pathway and presence of immature neurons. To gain insights into the molecular mechanism implicated in defective ciliation, we performed a phenotypic screen in the Tsc2-deficient neurons and identified the heat shock protein hsp90 as a drug target that reverses altered ciliation independently from mTORC1 hyperactivation. Using a high throughput cell-based assay, we uncovered the existence of a therapeutic window for cilia restoration through hsp90 inhibition, without affecting TORC1 activation. These findings enable us to build our central hypothesis that hsp90 is the mTORC1 downstream target responsible for the ciliopathy-like phenotype seen in TSC. Here, we propose to determine the mechanistic basis by which hsp90 inhibition restores cilia in Tsc2 deficient neurons using multiple pharmacological and genetic techniques and by identifying the hsp90 interactome in the TSC1/2 mutant neurons. Presence of immature neuronal properties, astrogliosis, and aberrant regulation of the Shh pathway are some of the neuronal TSC manifestations that will be investigated to establish the functional relevance of restoring cilia. Finally, we will first examine cilia in cortical neurons generated from TSC patient-derived induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) and their isogenic controls. We will perform preclinical pharmacokinetics/pharmacodynamics (PK/PD) assessment of brain penetration and exposure of hsp90 inhibitors in mice. Taken together, the outcome of these experiments will help elucidate the downstream pathways affected by hsp90 in TSC, provide fundamental insights into cilia biology and potentially shed light for other ciliopathies caused by dysfunctional heat shock response.

Public Health Relevance

Tuberous Sclerosis complex (TSC) patients suffer from autism, intellectual disability and epilepsy, and relatively little is known about the cellular mechanisms that result in these phenotypes. However, it is clear that primary cilia of neurons play critical roles in the formation and function of the nervous system. Therefore, defining the TSC1/2 related functions of primary cilia in neurons will be essential to understanding the pathogenesis of TSC in the brain and provide potential novel therapeutic interventions for the neurological manifestations of TSC. !

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS)
Research Project (R01)
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Neurogenesis and Cell Fate Study Section (NCF)
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Mamounas, Laura
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Boston Children's Hospital
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