Focal cortical dysplasia type IIb is characterized by epilepsy-associated malformations that are often composed of balloon cells and dysplastic neurons. There are many histopathologic similarities between focal cortical dysplasia type IIb and cortical tubers in tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC), an autosomal-dominant phakomatosis caused by mutations in the TSC1 or TSC2 genes that encode hamartin and tuberin. We previously found that an allelic variant of TSC1 (hamartin) is increased in focal cortical dysplasia type IIb. Here, we investigated the subcellular localization of hamartin and its interaction with tuberin in vitro. Coimmunoprecipitation assays with tuberin revealed reduced tuberin binding of hamartin compared with wild-type hamartin. Tuberin binding was also reduced for 2 TSC1 stop mutants (hamartin and hamartin) that are present in brain lesions of TSC patients. Colocalization assays of hamartin and tuberin were performed in HEK293T cells, and the subcellular localization of the hamartin variants were studied using immunocytochemistry. There was an impairment of tuberin binding of hamartin and aberrant nuclear distribution of hamartin in these cells, whereas hamartin and hamartin were, like wild-type tuberin, localized in the cytoplasm. These data suggest a fundamental functional impairment of hamartin and the 2 TSC1 stop mutants hamartin and hamartin in vitro. Future studies will be needed to characterize the roles of these TSC1 sequence variants in the genesis of dysplastic epileptogenic developmental brain lesions.

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Journal of Neuropathology and Experimental Neurology
Erasmus MC: University Medical Center Rotterdam

Lugnier, C., Majores, M., Fassunke, J., Pernhorst, K., Niehusmann, P., Simon, M., … Becker, A. (2009). Hamartin variants that are frequent in focal dysplasias and cortical tubers have reduced tuberin binding and aberrant subcellular distribution in vitro. Journal of Neuropathology and Experimental Neurology, 68(10), 1136–1146. doi:10.1097/NEN.0b013e3181b9a699