Mechanisms underlying cognitive deficits in a mouse model for Costello Syndrome are distinct from other RASopathy mouse models.
RASopathies, characterized by germline mutations in genes encoding proteins of the RAS-ERK signaling pathway, show overlapping phenotypes, which manifest themselves with a varying severity of intellectual disability. However, it is unclear to what extent they share the same downstream pathophysiology that underlies the cognitive deficits. Costello syndrome (CS) is a rare RASopathy caused by activating mutations in the HRAS gene. Here we investigated the mechanisms underlying the cognitive deficits of HRas mice. HRas mice showed robust upregulation of ERK signaling, neuronal hypertrophy, increased brain volume, spatial learning deficits, and impaired mGluR-dependent long-term depression (LTD). In contrast, long-term potentiation (LTP), which is affected in other RASopathy mouse models was unaffected. Treatment with lovastatin, a HMG-CoA-Reductase inhibitor which has been shown to rescue the behavioral phenotypes of mouse models of NF1 and Noonan syndrome, was unable to restore ERK signaling and the cognitive deficits of HRas mice. Administration of a potent mitogen-activated protein kinase (MEK) inhibitor rescued the ERK upregulation and the mGluR-LTD deficit of HRas mice, but failed to rescue the cognitive deficits. Taken together, this study indicates that the fundamental molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying the cognitive aspects of different RASopathies are remarkably distinct, and may require disease specific treatments.