Mutations in human FYVE, RhoGEF, and PH domain–containing 1 (FGD1) cause faciogenital dysplasia (FGDY; also known as Aarskog syndrome), an X-linked disorder that affects multiple skeletal structures. FGD1 encodes a guanine nucleotide exchange factor (GEF) that specifically activates the Rho GTPase CDC42. However, the mechanisms by which mutations in FGD1 affect skeletal development are unknown. Here, we describe what we believe to be a novel signaling pathway in osteoblasts initiated by FGD1 that involves the MAP3K mixed-lineage kinase 3 (MLK3). We observed that MLK3 functions downstream of FGD1 to regulate ERK and p38 MAPK, which in turn phosphorylate and activate the master regulator of osteoblast differentiation, Runx2. Mutations in FGD1 found in individuals with FGDY ablated its ability to activate MLK3. Consistent with our description of this pathway and the phenotype of patients with FGD1 mutations, mice with a targeted deletion of Mlk3 displayed multiple skeletal defects, including dental abnormalities, deficient calvarial mineralization, and reduced bone mass. Furthermore, mice with knockin of a mutant Mlk3 allele that is resistant to activation by FGD1/CDC42 displayed similar skeletal defects, demonstrating that activation of MLK3 specifically by FGD1/CDC42 is important for skeletal mineralization. Thus, our results provide a putative biochemical mechanism for the skeletal defects in human FGDY and suggest that modulating MAPK signaling may benefit these patients.
Weiguo Zou, Matthew B. Greenblatt, Jae-Hyuck Shim, Shashi Kant, Bo Zhai, Sutada Lotinun, Nicholas Brady, Dorothy Zhang Hu, Steven P. Gygi, Roland Baron, Roger J. Davis, Dallas Jones, Laurie H. Glimcher