Small molecule inhibition of RAS/MAPK signaling ameliorates developmental pathologies of Kabuki Syndrome

I. Chun Tsai, Kelly McKnight, Spencer U. McKinstry, Andrew T. Maynard, Perciliz L. Tan, Christelle Golzio, C. Thomas White, Daniel J. Price, Erica Ellen Davis, Heather Amrine-Madsen, Elias Nicholas Katsanis*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Kabuki Syndrome (KS) is a rare disorder characterized by distinctive facial features, short stature, skeletal abnormalities, and neurodevelopmental deficits. Previously, we showed that loss of function of RAP1A, a RAF1 regulator, can activate the RAS/MAPK pathway and cause KS, an observation recapitulated in other genetic models of the disorder. These data suggested that suppression of this signaling cascade might be of therapeutic benefit for some features of KS. To pursue this possibility, we performed a focused small molecule screen of a series of RAS/MAPK pathway inhibitors, where we tested their ability to rescue disease-relevant phenotypes in a zebrafish model of the most common KS locus, kmt2d. Consistent with a pathway-driven screening paradigm, two of 27 compounds showed reproducible rescue of early developmental pathologies. Further analyses showed that one compound, desmethyl-Dabrafenib (dmDf), induced no overt pathologies in zebrafish embryos but could rescue MEK hyperactivation in vivo and, concomitantly, structural KS-relevant phenotypes in all KS zebrafish models (kmt2d, kmd6a and rap1). Mass spectrometry quantitation suggested that a 100 nM dose resulted in sub-nanomolar exposure of this inhibitor and was sufficient to rescue both mandibular and neurodevelopmental defects. Crucially, germline kmt2d mutants recapitulated the gastrulation movement defects, micrognathia and neurogenesis phenotypes of transient models; treatment with dmDf ameliorated all of them significantly. Taken together, our data reinforce a causal link between MEK hyperactivation and KS and suggest that chemical suppression of BRAF might be of potential clinical utility for some features of this disorder.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number10779
JournalScientific reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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