Hamartin and tuberin are products of the tumor suppressor genes, TSC1 and TSC2, respectively. When mutated, a characteristic spectrum of tumor-like growths develop resulting in the syndrome of tuberous sclerosis complex. The phenotypes associated with TSC1 and TSC2 mutations are largely indistinguishable suggesting a common biochemical pathway. Indeed, hamartin and tuberin have been shown to interact stably in vitro and in vivo. Factors that regulate their interaction are likely critical to the understanding of disease pathogenesis. In this study, we showed that tuberin is phosphorylated at serine and tyrosine residues in response to serum and other factors, and it undergoes serial phosphorylation that can be detected by differences in electrophoretic mobilities. A disease-related TSC2 mutation (Y1571H) nearly abolished tuberin phosphorylation when stimulated with pervanadate. Expression of this mutant tuberin caused a marked reduction in TSC1-TSC2 interaction compared with wild-type protein and significantly curtailed the growth inhibitory effects of tuberin when overexpressed in COS1 cells, consistent with a loss of function mutation. Examination of a second pathologic mutation, P1675L, revealed a similar relationship between limited phosphorylation and reduced interaction with hamartin. Our data show for the first time that 1) tuberin is phosphorylated at tyrosine and serine residues, 2) TSC1-TSC2 interaction is regulated by tuberin phosphorylation, and 3) defective phosphorylation of tuberin is associated with loss of its tumor suppressor activity. These findings suggest that phosphorylation may be a key regulatory mechanism controlling TSC1-TSC2 function.
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