Cutaneous neurofibromas (cNFs) are benign Schwann cell (SC) tumors arising from subepidermal glia. Individuals with neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1) may develop thousands of cNFs, which greatly affect their quality of life. cNF growth is driven by the proliferation of NF1–/– SCs and their interaction with the NF1+/– microenvironment. We analyzed the crosstalk between human cNF-derived SCs and fibroblasts (FBs), identifying an expression signature specific to the SC-FB interaction. We validated the secretion of proteins involved in immune cell migration, suggesting a role of SC-FB crosstalk in immune cell recruitment. The signature also captured components of developmental signaling pathways, including the cAMP elevator G protein–coupled receptor 68 (GPR68). Activation of Gpr68 by ogerin in combination with the MEK inhibitor (MEKi) selumetinib reduced viability and induced differentiation and death of human cNF-derived primary SCs, a result corroborated using an induced pluripotent stem cell–derived 3D neurofibromasphere model. Similar results were obtained using other Gpr68 activators or cAMP analogs/adenylyl cyclase activators in combination with selumetinib. Interestingly, whereas primary SC cultures restarted their proliferation after treatment with selumetinib alone was stopped, the combination of ogerin-selumetinib elicited a permanent halt on SC expansion that persisted after drug removal. These results indicate that unbalancing the Ras and cAMP pathways by combining MEKi and cAMP elevators could be used as a potential treatment for cNFs.
Helena Mazuelas, Miriam Magallón-Lorenz, Itziar Uriarte-Arrazola, Alejandro Negro, Inma Rosas, Ignacio Blanco, Elisabeth Castellanos, Conxi Lázaro, Bernat Gel, Meritxell Carrió, Eduard Serra