The mechanism of vulnerability to pediatric low-grade gliomas (pLGGs)-the most common brain tumor in children-during development remains largely unknown. Using mouse models of neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1)-associated pLGGs in the optic pathway (NF1-OPG), we demonstrate that NF1-OPG arose from the vulnerability to the dependency of Mek-Erk/MAPK signaling during gliogenesis of one of the two developmentally transient precursor populations in the optic nerve, brain-derived migrating glial progenitors (GPs), but not local progenitors. Hyperactive Erk/MAPK signaling by Nf1 loss overproduced GPs by disrupting the balance between stem-cell maintenance and gliogenesis of hypothalamic ventricular zone radial glia (RG). Persistence of RG-like GPs initiated NF1-OPG, causing Bax-dependent apoptosis in retinal ganglion cells. Removal of three Mek1/Mek2 alleles or transient post-natal treatment with a low-dose MEK inhibitor normalized differentiation of Nf1 RG-like GPs, preventing NF1-OPG formation and neuronal degeneration. We provide the proof-of-concept evidence for preventing pLGGs before tumor-associated neurological damage enters an irreversible phase.
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