Aspects of achondroplasia in the skulls of dwarf transgenic mice: A cephalometric study



Achondroplasia, the most common short-limbed dwarfism in humans, results from a single nucleotide substitution in the gene for fibroblast growth factor receptor 3 (FGFR3). FGFR3 regulates bone growth in part via the mitogen-activated protein kinase pathway (MAPK). To examine the role of this pathway in chondrocyte differentiation, a transgenic mouse was generated that expresses a constitutively active mutant of MEK1 in chondrocytes and exhibits dwarfing characteristics typical of human achondroplasia, i.e., shortened axial and appendicular skeletons, mid-facial hypoplasia, and dome-shaped cranium. In this study, cephalometrics of the MEK1 mutant skulls were assessed to determine if the MEK1 mice are a good model of achondroplasia. Skull length, arc of the cranial vault, and area, maximum and minimum diameters of the brain case were measured on digitized radiographs of skulls of MEK1 and control mice. Cranial base and nasal bone length and foramen magnum diameter were measured on midsagittal micro-CT sections. Data were normalized by dividing by the cube root of each animal's weight. Transgenic mice exhibited a domed skull, deficient midface, and (relatively) prognathic mandible and had a shorter cranial base and nasal bone than the wild-type. Skull length was significantly less in transgenic mice, but cranial arc was significantly greater. The brain case was larger and more circular and minimum diameter of the brain case was significantly greater in transgenic mice. The foramen magnum was displaced anteriorly but not narrowed. MEK1 mouse cephalometrics confirm these mice as a model for achondroplasia, demonstrating that the MAP kinase signaling pathway is involved in FGF signaling in skeletal development. © 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.