Runx1/3-driven adaptive endoplasmic reticulum stress pathways contribute to neurofibromagenesis

Youjin Na, Ashley Hall, Yanan Yu, Liang Hu, Kwangmin Choi, Jake A. Burgard, Sara Szabo, Gang Huang, Nancy Ratner, Jianqiang Wu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1) patients are predisposed to develop plexiform neurofibromas (PNFs). Three endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress response pathways restore cellular homeostasis. The unfolded protein response (UPR) sensors contribute to tumor initiation in many cancers. We found that all three UPR pathways were activated in mouse and human PNFs, with protein kinase RNA [PKR]-like ER kinase (PERK) the most highly expressed. We tested if neurofibroma cells adapt to ER stress, leading to their growth. Pharmacological or genetic inhibition of PERK reduced mouse neurofibroma-sphere number, and genetic inhibition in PERK in Schwann cell precursors (SCPs) decreased tumor-like lesion numbers in a cell transplantation model. Further, in a PNF mouse model, deletion of PERK in Schwann cells (SCs) and SCPs reduced tumor size, number, and increased survival. Mechanistically, loss of Nf1 activated PERK-eIF2α-ATF4 signaling and increased ATF4 downstream target gene p21 translocation from nucleus to cytoplasm. This nucleus-cytoplasm translocation was mediated by exportin-1. Runx transcriptionally activated ribosome gene expression and increased protein synthesis to allow SCs to adapt to ER stress and tumor formation. We propose that targeting proteostasis might provide cytotoxic and/or potentially durable novel therapy for PNFs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
StateAccepted/In press - 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Cancer Research


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