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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Long-term consequences of conditional genetic deletion of PTEN in the sensorimotor cortex of neonatal mice

  • Author(s): Gutilla, EA
  • Buyukozturk, MM
  • Steward, O
  • et al.

Targeted deletion of the phosphatase and tensin homolog on chromosome ten (PTEN) gene in the sensorimotor cortex of neonatal mice enables robust regeneration of corticospinal tract (CST) axons following spinal cord injury as adults. Here, we assess the consequences of long-term conditional genetic PTEN deletion on cortical structure and neuronal morphology and screen for neuropathology. Mice with a LoxP-flanked exon 5 of the PTEN gene (PTENf/f mice) received AAV-Cre injections into the sensorimotor cortex at postnatal day 1 (P1) and were allowed to survive for up to 18months. As adults, mice were assessed for exploratory activity (open field), and motor coordination using the Rotarod®. Some mice received injections of Fluorogold into the spinal cord to retrogradely label the cells of origin of the CST. Brains were prepared for neurohistology and immunostained for PTEN and phospho-S6, which is a downstream marker of mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) activation. Immunostaining revealed a focal area of PTEN deletion affecting neurons in all cortical layers, although in some cases PTEN expression was maintained in many small-medium sized neurons in layers III-IV. Neurons lacking PTEN were robustly stained for pS6. Cortical thickness was significantly increased and cortical lamination was disrupted in the area of PTEN deletion. PTEN-negative layer V neurons that give rise to the CST, identified by retrograde labeling, were larger than neurons with maintained PTEN expression, and the relative area occupied by neuropil vs. cell bodies was increased. There was no evidence of tumor formation or other neuropathology. Mice with PTEN deletion exhibited open field activity comparable to controls and there was a trend for impaired Rotarod performance (not statistically significant). Our findings indicate that early postnatal genetic deletion of PTEN that is sufficient to enable axon regeneration by adult neurons causes neuronal hypertrophy but no other detectable neuropathology.

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