• Carney complex;
  • mouse models;
  • Prkar1a;
  • protein kinase A


Carney complex (CNC) is an autosomal dominant, multiple endocrine neoplasia syndrome comprised of spotty skin pigmentation, myxomatosis, endocrine tumours and schwannomas. The majority of cases are due to inactivating mutations in PRKAR1A, the gene encoding the type 1A regulatory subunit of the 3′,5′-cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP)-dependent protein kinase, PKA (protein kinase A). In order to understand the molecular basis for tumorigenesis associated with PRKAR1A mutations, we have developed conventional and conditional Prkar1a knockout (KO) mice as well as primary cell culture models corresponding to these genetic manipulations. At the biochemical level, removal of Prkar1a from cells causes enhanced PKA activity, the same effect which has been observed in tumours isolated from CNC patients. Mice heterozygous for Prkar1a mutations (the exact genetic model for CNC patients) are born at expected frequencies and are tumour prone, developing neoplasms in cAMP-responsive cell types such as Schwann cells, osteoblasts and thyrocytes. In order to understand the basis of tissue-specific tumour formation, we have created tissue-specific KOs of the gene from three different tissues: the neural crest (Schwann cells), the pituitary gland and the heart. In the neural crest and the pituitary, ablation of Prkar1a leads to excess proliferation and tumorigenesis, whereas the same manipulation in developing cardiomyocytes leads to reduced proliferation and embryonic demise. The KO hearts also exhibit myxomatous changes suggesting a connection between PKA activation and myxomagenesis, although the nature of this relationship has not yet been determined. This work confirms the role of Prkar1a as a tissue-specific tumour suppressor, and ongoing work is focused on identifying the key downstream signalling targets affected by dysregulation of PKA.