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Activation of p38 MAPK pathway in the skull abnormalities of Apert syndrome Fgfr2+P253R mice

Yingli Wang1*, Miao Sun23, Victoria L Uhlhorn1, Xueyan Zhou1, Inga Peter1, Neus Martinez-Abadias4, Cheryl A Hill4, Christopher J Percival4, Joan T Richtsmeier45, David L Huso6 and Ethylin Wang Jabs12

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Genetics and Genomic Sciences, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, One Gustave L Levy Place, New York, New York, USA

2 Institute of Genetic Medicine, Department of Pediatrics, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland, USA

3 Department of Medical Genetics and National Key Laboratory of Medical Molecular Biology, Institute of Basic Medical Sciences, Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences & Peking Union Medical College, Beijing, China

4 Department of Anthropology, Pennsylvania State University, USA

5 Center for Functional Anatomy and Evolution, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland, USA

6 Department of Molecular and Comparative Pathobiology, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland, USA

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BMC Developmental Biology 2010, 10:22  doi:10.1186/1471-213X-10-22

Published: 22 February 2010



Apert syndrome is characterized by craniosynostosis and limb abnormalities and is primarily caused by FGFR2 +/P253R and +/S252W mutations. The former mutation is present in approximately one third whereas the latter mutation is present in two-thirds of the patients with this condition. We previously reported an inbred transgenic mouse model with the Fgfr2 +/S252W mutation on the C57BL/6J background for Apert syndrome. Here we present a mouse model for the Fgfr2+/P253R mutation.


We generated inbred Fgfr2+/P253R mice on the same C56BL/6J genetic background and analyzed their skeletal abnormalities. 3D micro-CT scans of the skulls of the Fgfr2+/P253R mice revealed that the skull length was shortened with the length of the anterior cranial base significantly shorter than that of the Fgfr2+/S252W mice at P0. The Fgfr2+/P253R mice presented with synostosis of the coronal suture and proximate fronts with disorganized cellularity in sagittal and lambdoid sutures. Abnormal osteogenesis and proliferation were observed at the developing coronal suture and long bones of the Fgfr2+/P253R mice as in the Fgfr2+/S252W mice. Activation of mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPK) was observed in the Fgfr2+/P253R neurocranium with an increase in phosphorylated p38 as well as ERK1/2, whereas phosphorylated AKT and PKCĪ± were not obviously changed as compared to those of wild-type controls. There were localized phenotypic and molecular variations among individual embryos with different mutations and among those with the same mutation.


Our in vivo studies demonstrated that the Fgfr2 +/P253R mutation resulted in mice with cranial features that resemble those of the Fgfr2+/S252W mice and human Apert syndrome. Activated p38 in addition to the ERK1/2 signaling pathways may mediate the mutant neurocranial phenotype. Though Apert syndrome is traditionally thought to be a consistent phenotype, our results suggest localized and regional variations in the phenotypes that characterize Apert syndrome.