Therapeutic value of prenatal rapamycin treatment in a mouse brain model of tuberous sclerosis complex

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Abstract

Epileptic seizures, particularly infantile spasms, are often seen in infants with tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC) soon after birth. It is feared that there are long-term developmental and cognitive consequences from ongoing, frequent epilepsy. In addition, the hallmark brain pathology of TSC, cortical tubers and giant cells are fully developed at late gestational ages. These observations have led us to examine the benefit of prenatal rapamycin in a new fetal brain model of TSC. In this Tsc1ccNes-cre+ mouse model, recombination and loss of Tsc1 in neural progenitor cells leads to brain enlargement, hyperactivation of mTOR, and neonatal death on P0 due to reduced pup–maternal interaction. A single dose of prenatal rapamycin given to pregnant dams (1 mg/kg, subcutaneous) rescued the lethality of mutant mice. This one dose of prenatal rapamycin treatment reduced hyperactivation of the mTOR pathway in the mutant brain without causing apparent pregnancy loss. Continued postnatal rapamycin beginning at day 8 extended the survival of these mice to a median of 12 days with complete suppression of hyperactive mTOR. However, the rapamycin-treated mutants developed enlarged brains with an increased number of brain cells, displaying marked runting and developmental delay. These observations demonstrate the therapeutic benefit and limitations of prenatal rapamycin in a prenatal-onset brain model of TSC. Our data also suggest the possibility and limitations of this approach for TSC infants and mothers.

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