Noonan and LEOPARD syndromes are developmental disorders with overlapping features, including cardiac abnormalities, short stature and facial dysmorphia. Increased RAS signaling owing to PTPN11, SOS1 and KRAS mutations causes ∼60% of Noonan syndrome cases, and PTPN11 mutations cause 90% of LEOPARD syndrome cases. Here, we report that 18 of 231 individuals with Noonan syndrome without known mutations (corresponding to 3% of all affected individuals) and two of six individuals with LEOPARD syndrome without PTPN11 mutations have missense mutations in RAF1, which encodes a serine-threonine kinase that activates MEK1 and MEK2. Most mutations altered a motif flanking Ser259, a residue critical for autoinhibition of RAF1 through 14-3-3 binding. Of 19 subjects with a RAF1 mutation in two hotspots, 18 (or 95%) showed hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM), compared with the 18% prevalence of HCM among individuals with Noonan syndrome in general. Ectopically expressed RAF1 mutants from the two HCM hotspots had increased kinase activity and enhanced ERK activation, whereas non-HCM-associated mutants were kinase impaired. Our findings further implicate increased RAS signaling in pathological cardiomyocyte hypertrophy.
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