Abstract

The RASopathies are defined as a group of medical genetics syndromes that are caused by germ-line mutations in genes that encode components or regulators of the Ras/mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) pathway. Taken together, the RASopathies represent one of the most prevalent groups of malformation syndromes affecting greater than 1 in 1,000 individuals. The Ras/MAPK pathway has been well studied in the context of cancer as it plays essential roles in growth, differentiation, cell cycle, senescence and apoptosis, all of which are also critical to normal development. The consequence of germ-line dysregulation leads to phenotypic alterations of development. RASopathies can be caused by several pathogenetic mechanisms that ultimately impact or alter the normal function and regulation of the MAPK pathway. These pathogenetic mechanisms can include functional alteration of GTPases, Ras GTPase-activating proteins, Ras guanine exchange factors, kinases, scaffolding or adaptor proteins, ubiquitin ligases, phosphatases and pathway inhibitors. Although these mechanisms are diverse, the common underlying biochemical phenotype shared by all the RASopathies is Ras/MAPK pathway activation. This results in the overlapping phenotypic features among these syndromes.

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