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Papers of the Week

Papers: 18 May 2019 - 24 May 2019

Human Studies



PLoS One



The evolution and multi-molecular properties of NF1 cutaneous neurofibromas originating from C-fiber sensory endings and terminal Schwann cells at normal sites of sensory terminations in the skin.


Rice FL, Houk G, Wymer JP, Gosline SJC, Guinney J, Wu J, Ratner N, Jankowski MP, La Rosa S, Dockum M, Storey JR, Carroll SL, Albrecht PJ, Riccardi VM
PLoS One. 2019; 14(5):e0216527.
PMID: 31107888.


In addition to large plexiform neurofibromas (pNF), NF1 patients are frequently disfigured by cutaneous neurofibromas (cNF) and are often afflicted with chronic pain and itch even from seemingly normal skin areas. Both pNFs and cNF consist primarily of benign hyperproliferating nonmyelinating Schwann cells (nSC). While pNF clearly arise within deep nerves and plexuses, the role of cutaneous innervation in the origin of cNF and in chronic itch and pain is unknown. First, we conducted a comprehensive, multi-molecular, immunofluorescence (IF) analyses on 3mm punch biopsies from three separate locations in normal appearing, cNF-free skin in 19 NF1 patients and skin of 16 normal subjects. At least one biopsy in 17 NF1 patients had previously undescribed micro-lesions consisting of a small, dense cluster of nonpeptidergic C-fiber endings and the affiliated nSC consistently adjoining adnexal structures-dermal papillae, hair follicles, sweat glands, sweat ducts, and arterioles-where C-fiber endings normally terminate. Similar micro-lesions were detected in hind paw skin of mice with conditionally-induced SC Nf1-/- mutations. Hypothesizing that these microlesions were pre-cNF origins of cNF, we subsequently analyzed numerous overt, small cNF (s-cNF, 3-6 mm) and discovered that each had an adnexal structure at the epicenter of vastly increased nonpeptidergic C-fiber terminals, accompanied by excessive nSC. The IF and functional genomics assays indicated that neurturin (NTRN) and artemin (ARTN) signaling through cRET kinase and GFRα2 and GFRα3 co-receptors on the aberrant C-fiber endings and nSC may mutually promote the onset of pre-cNF and their evolution to s-cNF. Moreover, TrpA1 and TrpV1 receptors may, respectively, mediate symptoms of chronic itch and pain. These newly discovered molecular characteristics might be targeted to suppress the development of cNF and to treat chronic itch and pain symptoms in NF1 patients.