Date of Graduation


Document Type

Dissertation (PhD)

Program Affiliation

Human and Molecular Genetics

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Advisor/Committee Chair

Michael J. Gambello, M.D, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Michael R. Blackburn, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Gilbert J. Cote, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Pramod K. Dash, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Seonhee Kim, Ph.D.


Tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC) is a multisystem, autosomal dominant disorder affecting approximately 1 in 6000 births. Developmental brain abnormalities cause substantial morbidity and mortality and often lead to neurological disease including epilepsy, cognitive disabilities, and autism. TSC is caused by inactivating mutations in either TSC1 or TSC2, whose protein products are known inhibitors of mTORC1, an important kinase regulating translation and cell growth. Nonetheless, neither the pathophysiology of the neurological manifestations of TSC nor the extent of mTORC1 involvement in the development of these lesions is known. Murine models would greatly advance the study of this debilitating disorder. This thesis will describe the generation and characterization of a novel brain-specific mouse model of TSC, Tsc2flox/ko;hGFAP-Cre. In this model, the Tsc2 gene has been removed from most neurons and glia of the cortex and hippocampus by targeted Cre-mediated deletion in radial glial neuroprogenitor cells. The Tsc2flox/ko;hGFAP-Cre mice fail to thrive beginning postnatal day 8 and die from seizures around 23 days. Further characterization of these mice demonstrated megalencephaly, enlarged neurons, abnormal neuronal migration, altered progenitor pools, hypomyelination, and an astrogliosis. The similarity of these defects to those of TSC patients establishes this mouse as an excellent model for the study of the neuropathology of TSC and testing novel therapies. We further describe the use of this mouse model to assess the therapeutic potential of the macrolide rapamycin, an inhibitor of mTORC1. We demonstrate that rapamycin administered from postnatal day 10 can extend the life of the mutant animals 5 fold. Since TSC is a neurodevelopmental disorder, we also assessed in utero and/or immediate postnatal treatment of the animals with rapamycin. Amazingly, combined in utero and postnatal rapamycin effected a histologic rescue that was almost indistinguishable from control animals, indicating that dysregulation of mTORC1 plays a large role in TSC neuropathology. In spite of the almost complete histologic rescue, behavioral studies demonstrated that combined treatment resulted in poorer learning and memory than postnatal treatment alone. Postnatally-treated animals behaved similarly to treated controls, suggesting that immediate human treatment in the newborn period might provide the most opportune developmental timepoint for rapamycin administration.


tuberous sclerosis complex, mTOR, mouse model, Tsc2, rapamycin, neurodevelopment



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