Authors: Businaro R., Corsi M., Azzara G., Di Raimo T., Laviola G., Romano E., Ricci L., Maccarrone M., Aronica E., Fuso A., Ricci S.

Journal of Neuroinflammation (2016) 13:2. DOI: 10.1186/s12974-015-0466-6


Background: Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disease which affects 1 in 88 children. Its etiology remains basically unknown, but it is apparent that neuroinflammation is involved in disease development. Great attention has been focused on pro-inflammatory cytokines, and several studies have reported their dysfunction unbalance in serum as well as in the brain. The present work aimed at evaluating putative dysregulation of interleukin-18 (IL-18), a pro-inflammatory cytokine of the IL-1 family in the sera of patients with ASD of different grades, compared to healthy controls, as well as in postmortem brain samples obtained from patients with tuberous sclerosis as well as acute inflammatory diseases. Moreover, quantitative analysis of IL-18 was performed in the sera and brain obtained from Reeler mice, an experimental model of autism.

Methods: Serum IL-18 levels were measured by ELISA. IL-18 was localized by immunohistochemical analysis in brain sections obtained from tuberous sclerosis and encephalitis patients, as well as from gender- and age-matched controls, and in the brain sections of both Reeler and wild-type mice. IL-18 was also quantified by Western blots in homogenates of Reeler and wild-type mice brains. IL-18 binding protein (IL-18BP) was evaluated in Reeler and wild-type mice plasma as well as in their brains (sections and homogenates).

Results: IL-18 content decreased in the sera of patients with autism compared to healthy subjects and in Reeler sera compared to wild-type controls. IL-18 was detected within glial cells and neurons in the brain of subjects affected by tuberous sclerosis and encephalitis whereas in healthy subjects, only a weak IL-18 positivity was detected at the level of glial cells. Western blot identified higher amounts of IL-18 in Reeler brain homogenates compared to wild-type littermates. IL-18BP was expressed in higher amounts in Reeler brain compared to the brain of wild-type mice, whereas no significant difference was detected comparing IL-18BP plasma levels.

Conclusions: IL-18 is dysregulated in ASD patients. Further studies seemed necessary to clarify the molecular details behind IL-18 increase in the brain and IL-18 decrease in the sera of patients. An increase in the size of the patient cohort seems necessary to ascertain whether decreased IL-18 content in the sera can become a predictive biomarker of ASD and whether its measure, in combination with other markers (e.g., increased levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF)), may be included in a diagnostic panel. 

Authors: Malik A.R., Liszewska E., Skalecka A., Urbanska M., Iyer A.M., Swiech L.J., Perycz M., Parobczak K., Pietruszka P., Zarebska M.M., Macias M., Kotulska K., Borkowska J., Grajkowska W., Tyburczy M.E., Jozwiak S., Kwiatkowski D.J., Aronica E., Jaworski J.

Acta. Neuropathol. Commun. 2015 Jul 30;3(1):48. doi: 10.1186/s40478-015-0225-z


INTRODUCTION: Tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC) is a genetic disease resulting from mutation in TSC1 or TSC2 and subsequent hyperactivation of mammalian Target of Rapamycin (mTOR). Common TSC features include brain lesions, such as cortical tubers and subependymal giant cell astrocytomas (SEGAs). However, the current treatment with mTOR inhibitors has critical limitations. We aimed to identify new targets for TSC pharmacotherapy. 

RESULTS: The results of our shRNA screen point to glutamate-cysteine ligase catalytic subunit (GCLC), a key enzyme in glutathione synthesis, as a contributor to TSC-related phenotype. GCLC inhibition increased cellular stress and reduced mTOR hyperactivity in TSC2-depleted neurons and SEGA-derived cells. Moreover, patients' brain tubers showed elevated GCLC and stress markers expression. Finally GCLC inhibition led to growth arrest and death of SEGA-derived cells. 

CONCLUSIONS: We describe GCLC as a part of redox adaptation in TSC, needed for overgrowth and survival of mutant cells, and provide a potential novel target for SEGA treatment. 



Authors: Alves M.M., Fuhler G.M., Queiroz K.C.S., Scholma J., Goorden S., Anink J., Spek C.A., Hoogeveen-Westerveld A., Bruno M.J., Nellist M., Aronica E. & Peppelenbosch M.P.
Scientific reports/5:14534/DOI:10.1038/srep14534


Tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC) is caused by inactivating mutations in either TSC1 or TSC2 and is characterized by uncontrolled mTORC1 activation. Drugs that reduce mTOR activity are only partially successful in the treatment of TSC, suggesting that mTOR-independent pathways play a role in disease development. Here, kinome profiles of wild-type and Tsc2-/- mouse embryonic fibroblasts (MEFs) were generated, revealing a prominent role for PAK2 in signal transduction downstream of TSC1/2. Further investigation showed that the effect of the TSC1/2 complex on PAK2 is mediated through RHEB, but is independent of mTOR and p21RAC. We also demonstrated that PAK2 overactivation is likely responsible for the migratory and cell cycle abnormalities observed in Tsc2-/-MEFs. Finally, we detected high levels of PAK2 activation in giant cells in the brains of TSC patients. These results show that PAK2 is a direct effector of TSC1-TSC2-RHEB signaling and a new target for rational drug therapy in TSC. 


Authors: K. Sadowski, K. Kotulska, R. A. Schwartz and S. Jóźwiak
DOI: 10.1111/jdv.13356


Tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC) is a genetic multisystem disorder associated with constitutive overactivation of the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) pathway and characterized by development of benign tumours in various organs. mTOR inhibitors have proven to be effective in the targeted therapy of certain TSC-associated pathologies such as subependymal giant cell astrocytomas (SEGAs) and renal angiomyolipomas (AMLs). Accumulating experimental and clinical data suggest that mTOR inhibitors might have a systemic, disease-modifying influence on affected individuals. This systematic review provides an analysis of available clinical data concerning systemic effect of mTOR inhibitors and the influence of mTOR inhibition on different manifestations of TSC in individual patients.

Authors: Kwiatkowski DJ, Palmer MR, Jozwiak S, Bissler J, Franz D, Segal S, Chen D, Sampson JR. 
Eur J Hum Genet. 2015. In press.

Tuberous sclerosis complex is an autosomal dominant disorder that occurs owing to inactivating mutations in either TSC1 or TSC2. Tuberous sclerosis complex-related tumors in the brain, such as subependymal giant cell astrocytoma, and in the kidney, such as angiomyolipoma, can cause significant morbidity and mortality. Recently, randomized clinical trials (EXIST-1 and EXIST-2) of everolimus for each of these tuberous sclerosis complex-associated tumors demonstrated the benefit of this drug, which blocks activated mammalian target of rapamycin complex 1. Here we report on the spectrum of mutations seen in patients treated during these trials and the association between mutation and response. TSC2 mutations were predominant among patients in both trials and were present in nearly all subjects with angiomyolipoma in whom a mutation was identified (97%), whereas TSC1 mutations were rare in those subjects (3%). The spectrum of mutations seen in each gene was similar to those previously reported. In both trials, there was no apparent association between mutation type or location within each gene and response to everolimus. Everolimus responses were also seen at a similar frequency for the 16-18% of patients in each trial in whom no mutation in either gene was identified. These observations confirm the strong association between TSC2 mutation and angiomyolipoma burden seen in previous studies, and they indicate that everolimus response occurs regardless of mutation type or location or when no mutation in TSC1 or TSC2 has been identified.