Genetic and biochemical evidence that haploinsufficiency of the Nf1 tumor suppressor gene modulates melanocyte and mast cell fates in vivo

David A. Ingram, Feng Chun Yang, Jeffrey B. Travers, Mary Jo Wenning, Kelly Hiatt, Sheryl New, Antoinette Hood, Kevin Shannon, David A. Williams, D. Wade Clapp

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

159 Scopus citations


Neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1) is a common autosomal-dominant disorder characterized by cutaneous neurofibromas infiltrated with large numbers of mast cells, melanocyte hyperplasia, and a predisposition to develop malignant neoplasms; NF1 encodes a GTPase activating protein (GAP) for Ras. Consistent with Knudson's 'two hit' model of tumor suppressor genes, leukemias and malignant solid tumors in NF1 patients frequently demonstrate somatic loss of the normal NF1 allele. However, the phenotypic and biochemical consequences of heterozygous inactivation of Nf1 are largely unknown. Recently neurofibromin, the protein encoded by NF1, was shown to negatively regulate Ras activity in Nf1-/- murine myeloid hematopoietic cells in vitro through the c-kit receptor tyrosine kinase (dominant white spotting, W). Since the W and Nf1 locus appear to function along a common developmental pathway, we generated mice with mutations at both loci to examine potential interactions in vivo. Here, we show that haploinsufficiency at Nf1 perturbs cell fates in mast cells in vivo, and partially rescues coat color and mast cell defects in W41 mice. Haploinsufficiency at Nf1 also increased mast cell proliferation, survival, and colony formation in response to steel factor, the ligand for c- kit. Furthermore, haploinsufficiency was associated with enhanced Ras- mitogen-activated protein kinase activity, a major downstream effector of Ras, via wild-type and mutant (W41) c-kit receptors. These observations identify a novel interaction between c-kit and neurofibromin in vivo, and offer experimental evidence that haploinsufficiency of Nf1 alters both cellular and biochemical phenotypes in two cell lineages that are affected in individuals with NF1. Collectively, these data support the emerging concept that heterozygous inactivation of tumor suppressor genes may have profound biological effects in multiple cell types.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)181-187
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Experimental Medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 3 2000
Externally publishedYes


  • Heterozygous
  • Mast cell
  • Neurofibromatosis
  • Tumor suppressor
  • c-kit

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


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