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1.  Differential response of skeletal muscles to mTORC1 signaling during atrophy and hypertrophy 
Skeletal Muscle  2013;3:6.
Skeletal muscle mass is determined by the balance between protein synthesis and degradation. Mammalian target of rapamycin complex 1 (mTORC1) is a master regulator of protein translation and has been implicated in the control of muscle mass. Inactivation of mTORC1 by skeletal muscle-specific deletion of its obligatory component raptor results in smaller muscles and a lethal dystrophy. Moreover, raptor-deficient muscles are less oxidative through changes in the expression PGC-1α, a critical determinant of mitochondrial biogenesis. These results suggest that activation of mTORC1 might be beneficial to skeletal muscle by providing resistance to muscle atrophy and increasing oxidative function. Here, we tested this hypothesis by deletion of the mTORC1 inhibitor tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC) in muscle fibers.
Skeletal muscles of mice with an acute or a permanent deletion of raptor or TSC1 were examined using histological, biochemical and molecular biological methods. Response of the muscles to changes in mechanical load and nerve input was investigated by ablation of synergistic muscles or by denervation .
Genetic deletion or knockdown of raptor, causing inactivation of mTORC1, was sufficient to prevent muscle growth and enhance muscle atrophy. Conversely, short-term activation of mTORC1 by knockdown of TSC induced muscle fiber hypertrophy and atrophy-resistance upon denervation, in both fast tibialis anterior (TA) and slow soleus muscles. Surprisingly, however, sustained activation of mTORC1 by genetic deletion of Tsc1 caused muscle atrophy in all but soleus muscles. In contrast, oxidative capacity was increased in all muscles examined. Consistently, TSC1-deficient soleus muscle was atrophy-resistant whereas TA underwent normal atrophy upon denervation. Moreover, upon overloading, plantaris muscle did not display enhanced hypertrophy compared to controls. Biochemical analysis indicated that the atrophy response of muscles was based on the suppressed phosphorylation of PKB/Akt via feedback inhibition by mTORC1 and subsequent increased expression of the E3 ubiquitin ligases MuRF1 and atrogin-1/MAFbx. In contrast, expression of both E3 ligases was not increased in soleus muscle suggesting the presence of compensatory mechanisms in this muscle.
Our study shows that the mTORC1- and the PKB/Akt-FoxO pathways are tightly interconnected and differentially regulated depending on the muscle type. These results indicate that long-term activation of the mTORC1 signaling axis is not a therapeutic option to promote muscle growth because of its strong feedback induction of the E3 ubiquitin ligases involved in protein degradation.
PMCID: PMC3622636  PMID: 23497627
Skeletal muscle; Hypertrophy; Atrophy; Mammalian target of rapamycin complex 1 (mTORC1); Raptor; Tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC); PKB/Akt; FoxO; MuRF1; Atrogin-1/MAFbx
2.  Amelioration of Behavioral Abnormalities in BH4-deficient Mice by Dietary Supplementation of Tyrosine 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(4):e60803.
This study reports an amelioration of abnormal motor behaviors in tetrahydrobiopterin (BH4)-deficient Spr−/− mice by the dietary supplementation of tyrosine. Since BH4 is an essential cofactor for the conversion of phenylalanine into tyrosine as well as the synthesis of dopamine neurotransmitter within the central nervous system, the levels of tyrosine and dopamine were severely reduced in brains of BH4-deficient Spr−/− mice. We found that Spr−/− mice display variable ‘open-field’ behaviors, impaired motor functions on the ‘rotating rod’, and dystonic ‘hind-limb clasping’. In this study, we report that these aberrant motor deficits displayed by Spr−/− mice were ameliorated by the therapeutic tyrosine diet for 10 days. This study also suggests that dopamine deficiency in brains of Spr−/− mice may not be the biological feature of aberrant motor behaviors associated with BH4 deficiency. Brain levels of dopamine (DA) and its metabolites in Spr−/− mice were not substantially increased by the dietary tyrosine therapy. However, we found that mTORC1 activity severely suppressed in brains of Spr−/− mice fed a normal diet was restored 10 days after feeding the mice the tyrosine diet. The present study proposes that brain mTORC1 signaling pathway is one of the potential targets in understanding abnormal motor behaviors associated with BH4-deficiency.
PMCID: PMC3618182  PMID: 23577163
3.  Rheb is a critical regulator of autophagy during myocardial ischemia: pathophysiological implications in obesity and metabolic syndrome 
Circulation  2012;125(9):1134-1146.
Rheb is a GTP-binding protein that promotes cell survival and mediates the cellular response to energy deprivation (ED). The role of Rheb in the regulation of cell survival during ED has not been investigated in the heart.
Methods and Results
Rheb is inactivated during cardiomyocyte (CM) glucose deprivation (GD) in vitro, and during acute myocardial ischemia in vivo. Rheb inhibition causes mTORC1 inhibition, because forced activation of Rheb, through Rheb overexpression in vitro and through inducible cardiac-specific Rheb overexpression in vivo, restored mTORC1 activity. Restoration of mTORC1 activity reduced CM survival during GD and increased infarct size after ischemia, both of which were accompanied by inhibition of autophagy, whereas Rheb knockdown increased autophagy and CM survival. Rheb inhibits autophagy mostly through Atg7 depletion. Restoration of autophagy, through Atg7 re-expression and inhibition of mTORC1, increased cellular ATP content and reduced endoplasmic reticulum stress, thereby reducing CM death induced by Rheb activation. Mice with high fat diet-induced obesity and metabolic syndrome (HFD mice) exhibited deregulated cardiac activation of Rheb and mTORC1, particularly during ischemia. HFD mice presented inhibition of cardiac autophagy and displayed increased ischemic injury. Pharmacological and genetic inhibition of mTORC1 restored autophagy and abrogated the increase in infarct size observed in HFD mice, but they failed to protect HFD mice in the presence of genetic disruption of autophagy.
Inactivation of Rheb protects CMs during ED through activation of autophagy. Rheb and mTORC1 may represent therapeutic targets to reduce myocardial damage during ischemia, particularly in obese patients.
PMCID: PMC3337789  PMID: 22294621
Rheb; mTORC1; autophagy; myocardial ischemia
4.  Glycolytic Flux Signals to mTOR through Glyceraldehyde-3-Phosphate Dehydrogenase-Mediated Regulation of Rheb▿  
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2009;29(14):3991-4001.
The mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) interacts with raptor to form the protein complex mTORC1 (mTOR complex 1), which plays a central role in the regulation of cell growth in response to environmental cues. Given that glucose is a primary fuel source and a biosynthetic precursor, how mTORC1 signaling is coordinated with glucose metabolism has been an important question. Here, we found that the glycolytic enzyme glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase (GAPDH) binds Rheb and inhibits mTORC1 signaling. Under low-glucose conditions, GAPDH prevents Rheb from binding to mTOR and thereby inhibits mTORC1 signaling. High glycolytic flux suppresses the interaction between GAPDH and Rheb and thus allows Rheb to activate mTORC1. Silencing of GAPDH or blocking of the Rheb-GAPDH interaction desensitizes mTORC1 signaling to changes in the level of glucose. The GAPDH-dependent regulation of mTORC1 in response to glucose availability occurred even in TSC1-deficient cells and AMPK-silenced cells, supporting the idea that the GAPDH-Rheb pathway functions independently of the AMPK axis. Furthermore, we show that glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate, a glycolytic intermediate that binds GAPDH, destabilizes the Rheb-GAPDH interaction even under low-glucose conditions, explaining how high-glucose flux suppresses the interaction and activates mTORC1 signaling. Taken together, our results suggest that the glycolytic flux regulates mTOR's access to Rheb by regulating the Rheb-GAPDH interaction, thereby allowing mTORC1 to coordinate cell growth with glucose availability.
PMCID: PMC2704738  PMID: 19451232
5.  Rag GTPase-mediated regulation of mTORC1 by nutrients is necessary for neonatal autophagy and survival 
Nature  2012;493(7434):679-683.
The mTOR Complex 1 (mTORC1) pathway regulates organismal growth in response to many environmental cues, including nutrients and growth factors1. Cell-based studies showed that mTORC1 senses amino acids through the Rag family of GTPases 2,3, but their importance in mammalian physiology is unknown. Here, we generated knock-in mice that express a constitutively active form of RagA (RagAGTP) from its endogenous promoter. RagAGTP/GTP mice develop normally, but fail to survive postnatal day 1. When delivered by Caesarian-section, fasted RagAGTP/GTP neonates die almost twice as rapidly as wild-type littermates. Within an hour of birth, wild-type neonates strongly inhibit mTORC1, which coincides with profound hypoglycaemia and a drop in plasma amino acid levels. In contrast, mTORC1 inhibition does not occur in RagAGTP/GTP neonates, despite identical reductions in blood nutrient levels. With prolonged fasting, wild-type neonates recover their plasma glucose levels, but RagAGTP/GTP mice remain hypoglycaemic until death, despite using glycogen at a faster rate. The glucose homeostasis defect correlates with the inability of fasted RagAGTP/GTP neonates to trigger autophagy and produce amino acids for de novo glucose production. Because profound hypoglycaemia does not inhibit mTORC1 in RagAGTP/GTP neonates, we hypothesized that the Rag pathway signals glucose as well as amino acid sufficiency to mTORC1. Indeed, mTORC1 is resistant to glucose deprivation in RagAGTP/GTP fibroblasts, and glucose, like amino acids, controls its recruitment to the lysosomal surface, the site of mTORC1 activation. Thus, the Rag GTPases signal glucose and amino acid levels to mTORC1, and play an unexpectedly key role in neonates in autophagy induction and thus nutrient homeostasis and viability.
PMCID: PMC4000705  PMID: 23263183
6.  Active-Site Inhibitors of mTOR Target Rapamycin-Resistant Outputs of mTORC1 and mTORC2 
PLoS Biology  2009;7(2):e1000038.
The mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) regulates cell growth and survival by integrating nutrient and hormonal signals. These signaling functions are distributed between at least two distinct mTOR protein complexes: mTORC1 and mTORC2. mTORC1 is sensitive to the selective inhibitor rapamycin and activated by growth factor stimulation via the canonical phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K)→Akt→mTOR pathway. Activated mTORC1 kinase up-regulates protein synthesis by phosphorylating key regulators of mRNA translation. By contrast, mTORC2 is resistant to rapamycin. Genetic studies have suggested that mTORC2 may phosphorylate Akt at S473, one of two phosphorylation sites required for Akt activation; this has been controversial, in part because RNA interference and gene knockouts produce distinct Akt phospho-isoforms. The central role of mTOR in controlling key cellular growth and survival pathways has sparked interest in discovering mTOR inhibitors that bind to the ATP site and therefore target both mTORC2 and mTORC1. We investigated mTOR signaling in cells and animals with two novel and specific mTOR kinase domain inhibitors (TORKinibs). Unlike rapamycin, these TORKinibs (PP242 and PP30) inhibit mTORC2, and we use them to show that pharmacological inhibition of mTOR blocks the phosphorylation of Akt at S473 and prevents its full activation. Furthermore, we show that TORKinibs inhibit proliferation of primary cells more completely than rapamycin. Surprisingly, we find that mTORC2 is not the basis for this enhanced activity, and we show that the TORKinib PP242 is a more effective mTORC1 inhibitor than rapamycin. Importantly, at the molecular level, PP242 inhibits cap-dependent translation under conditions in which rapamycin has no effect. Our findings identify new functional features of mTORC1 that are resistant to rapamycin but are effectively targeted by TORKinibs. These potent new pharmacological agents complement rapamycin in the study of mTOR and its role in normal physiology and human disease.
Author Summary
Growth factor pathways are required for normal development but are often inappropriately activated in many cancers. One growth-factor–sensitive pathway of increasing interest to cancer researchers relies on the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR), a kinase that (like all kinases) delivers phosphate groups from ATP to amino acid residues of downstream proteins. TOR proteins were first discovered in yeast as the cellular targets of rapamycin, a small, naturally occurring molecule derived from bacteria that is widely used as an immunosuppressant and more recently in some cancer therapies. The study of TOR proteins has relied heavily on the use of rapamycin, but rapamycin does not directly inhibit TOR kinase activity; rather, rapamycin influences TOR's enzymatic activities by binding to a domain far from the kinase's active site. Some mTOR functions are resistant to rapamycin, as a result of the kinase activity of one kind of multiprotein complex, the mTOR complex 2 (mTORC2), whereas rapamycin-sensitive functions of mTOR are due to the mTOR complex 1 (mTORC1). We have developed new inhibitors of mTOR that bind to the ATP-binding site of mTOR and inhibit the catalytic activity of both mTORC1 and mTORC2 without inhibiting other kinases. Unexpectedly, these inhibitors had profound effects on protein synthesis and cell proliferation due to their inhibition of mTORC1 rather than mTORC2. We found that the phosphorylation of a protein that controls protein synthesis, the mTORC1 substrate 4E binding protein (4EBP) is partially resistant to rapamycin but fully inhibited by our new inhibitors. The finding that 4EBP phosphorylation is resistant to rapamycin suggests that active-site inhibitors may be more effective than rapamycin in the treatment of cancer and may explain why rapamycin is so well tolerated when taken for immunosuppression.
Cells rely on the mammalian target of rapamycin kinase (mTOR) to sense growth factors. Inhibition of all forms of mTOR using newly developed inhibitors of its active site reveals new insights into the function of two mTOR-containing protein complexes and their potential as therapeutic targets.
PMCID: PMC2637922  PMID: 19209957
7.  Control of HIF-1α and vascular signaling in fetal lung involves cross talk between mTORC1 and the FGF-10/FGFR2b/Spry2 airway branching periodicity clock 
Lung development requires coordinated signaling between airway and vascular growth, but the link between these processes remains unclear. Mammalian target of rapamycin complex-1 (mTORC1) can amplify hypoxia-inducible factor-1α (HIF-1α) vasculogenic activity through an NH2-terminal mTOR binding (TOS) motif. We hypothesized that this mechanism coordinates vasculogenesis with the fibroblast growth factor (FGF)-10/FGF-receptor2b/Spry2 regulator of airway branching. First, we tested if the HIF-1α TOS motif participated in epithelial-mesenchymal vascular signaling. mTORC1 activation by insulin significantly amplified HIF-1α activity at fetal Po2 (23 mmHg) in human bronchial epithelium (16HBE14o-) and induced vascular traits (Flk1, sprouting) in cocultured human embryonic lung mesenchyme (HEL-12469). This enhanced activation of HIF-1α by mTORC1 was abolished on expression of a HIF-1α (F99A) TOS-mutant and also suppressed vascular differentiation of HEL-12469 cocultures. Next, we determined if vasculogenesis in fetal lung involved regulation of mTORC1 by the FGF-10/FGFR2b/Spry2 pathway. Fetal airway epithelium displayed distinct mTORC1 activity in situ, and its hyperactivation by TSC1−/− knockout induced widespread VEGF expression and disaggregation of Tie2-positive vascular bundles. FGF-10-coated beads grafted into fetal lung explants from Tie2-LacZ transgenic mice induced localized vascular differentiation in the peripheral mesenchyme. In rat fetal distal lung epithelial (FDLE) cells cultured at fetal Po2, FGF-10 induced mTORC1 and amplified HIF-1α activity and VEGF secretion without induction of ERK1/2. This was accompanied by the formation of a complex between Spry2, the cCBL ubiquitin ligase, and the mTOR repressor, TSC2, which abolished GTPase activity directed against Rheb, the G protein inducer of mTORC1. Thus, mTORC1 links HIF-1α-driven vasculogenesis with the FGF-10/FGFR2b/Spry2 airway branching periodicity regulator.
PMCID: PMC2957420  PMID: 20622121
lung development; epithelium; mesenchyme; hypoxia; rheb; tuberous sclerosis complex
8.  ULK1 inhibits mTORC1 signaling, promotes multisite Raptor phosphorylation and hinders substrate binding 
Autophagy  2011;7(7):737-747.
Protein synthesis and autophagy work as two opposing processes to control cell growth in response to nutrient supply. The mammalian/mechanistic target of rapamycin complex 1 (mTORC1) pathway, which acts as a master regulator to control protein synthesis, has recently been shown to inhibit autophagy by phosphorylating and inactivating ULK1, an autophagy regulatory protein. ULK1 also inhibits phosphorylation of a mTORC1 substrate, S6K1, indicating that a complex signaling interplay exists between mTORC1 and ULK1. Here, we demonstrate that ULK1 induces multisite phosphorylation of Raptor in vivo and in vitro. Using phospho-specific antibodies we identify Ser855 and Ser859 as being strongly phosphorylated by ULK1, with moderate phosphorylation of Ser792 also observed. Interestingly, ULK1 overexpression also increases phosphorylation of Raptor Ser863 and the mTOR autophosphorylation site, Ser2481 in a mTORC1-dependent manner. Despite this evidence for heightened mTORC1 kinase activity following ULK1 overexpresssion, mTORC1-mediated phosphorylation of S6K1 and 4E-BP1 is significantly inhibited. ULK1 expression has no effect on protein-protein interactions between the components of mTORC1, but does reduce the ability of Raptor to bind to the substrate 4E-BP1. Furthermore, shRNA knockdown of ULK1 leads to increased phosphorylation of mTORC1 substrates and decreased phosphorylation of Raptor at Ser859 and Ser792. We propose a new mechanism whereby ULK1 contributes to mTORC1 inhibition through hindrance of substrate docking to Raptor. This is a novel negative feedback loop that occurs upon activation of autophagy to maintain mTORC1 inhibition when nutrient supplies are limiting.
PMCID: PMC3149699  PMID: 21460630
autophagy; mTORC1; raptor; mTOR; S6K1; ULK1; ULK2
9.  Platelet-derived growth factor-induced Akt phosphorylation requires mTOR/Rictor and phospholipase C-γ1, whereas S6 phosphorylation depends on mTOR/Raptor and phospholipase D 
Mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) can be found in two multi-protein complexes, i.e. mTORC1 (containing Raptor) and mTORC2 (containing Rictor). Here, we investigated the mechanisms by which mTORC1 and mTORC2 are activated and their downstream targets in response to platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF)-BB treatment. Inhibition of phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K) inhibited PDGF-BB activation of both mTORC1 and mTORC2. We found that in Rictor-null mouse embryonic fibroblasts, or after prolonged rapamycin treatment of NIH3T3 cells, PDGF-BB was not able to promote phosphorylation of Ser473 in the serine/threonine kinase Akt, whereas Thr308 phosphorylation was less affected, suggesting that Ser473 in Akt is phosphorylated in an mTORC2-dependent manner. This reduction in Akt phosphorylation did not influence the phosphorylation of the S6 protein, a well established protein downstream of mTORC1. Consistently, triciribine, an inhibitor of the Akt pathway, suppressed PDGF-BB-induced Akt phosphorylation without having any effect on S6 phosphorylation. Thus, mTORC2 does not appear to be upstream of mTORC1. We could also demonstrate that in Rictor-null cells the phosphorylation of phospholipase Cγ1 (PLCγ1) and protein kinase C (PKC) was impaired, and the PKCα protein levels strongly reduced. Furthermore, interfering with the PLCγ/Ca2+/PKC pathway inhibited PDGF-BB-induced Akt phosphorylation. In addition, PDGF-BB-induced activation of mTORC1, as measured by phosphorylation of the downstream S6 protein, was dependent on phospholipase D (PLD). It has been shown that Erk1/2 MAP-kinase directly phosphorylates and activates mTORC1; in partial agreement with this finding, we found that a Mek1/2 inhibitor delayed S6 phosphorylation in response to PDGF-BB, but it did not block it. Thus, whereas both mTORC1 and mTORC2 are activated in a PI3K-dependent manner, different additional signaling pathways are needed. mTORC1 is activated in a PLD-dependent manner and promotes phosphorylation of the S6 protein, whereas mTORC2, in concert with PLCγ signaling, promotes Akt phosphorylation.
PMCID: PMC3560233  PMID: 23311350
PDGF; PI3K; mTOR; Rictor; Raptor; Akt; PLC; PKC; PLD; S6
10.  KLF15 Is a Molecular Link between Endoplasmic Reticulum Stress and Insulin Resistance 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(10):e77851.
Obesity places major demands on the protein folding capacity of the endoplasmic reticulum (ER), resulting in ER stress, a condition that promotes hepatic insulin resistance and steatosis. Here we identify the transcription factor, Kruppel-like factor 15 (KLF15), as an essential mediator of ER stress-induced insulin resistance in the liver. Mice with a targeted deletion of KLF15 exhibit increased hepatic ER stress, inflammation, and JNK activation compared to WT mice; however, KLF15-/- mice are protected against hepatic insulin resistance and fatty liver under high-fat feeding conditions and in response to pharmacological induction of ER stress. The mammalian target of rapamycin complex 1 (mTORC1), a key regulator of cellular energy homeostasis, has been shown to cooperate with ER stress signaling pathways to promote hepatic insulin resistance and lipid accumulation. We find that the uncoupling of ER stress and insulin resistance in KLF15-/- liver is associated with the maintenance of a low energy state characterized by decreased mTORC1 activity, increased AMPK phosphorylation and PGC-1α expression and activation of autophagy, an intracellular degradation process that enhances hepatic insulin sensitivity. Furthermore, in primary hepatocytes, KLF15 deficiency markedly inhibits activation of mTORC1 by amino acids and insulin, suggesting a mechanism by which KLF15 controls mTORC1-mediated insulin resistance. This study establishes KLF15 as an important molecular link between ER stress and insulin action.
PMCID: PMC3805598  PMID: 24167585
11.  Interplay between pVHL and mTORC1 pathways in clear-cell renal cell carcinoma 
Molecular cancer research : MCR  2011;9(9):1255-1265.
Mammalian target of rapamycin complex 1 (mTORC1) is implicated in cell growth control and is extensively regulated. We previously reported that in response to hypoxia, mTORC1 is inhibited by the protein regulated in development and DNA damage response 1 (REDD1). REDD1 is upregulated by HIF-1, and forced REDD1 expression is sufficient to inhibit mTORC1. REDD1-induced mTORC1 inhibition is dependent on a protein complex formed by the tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC)1 and 2 (TSC2) proteins. In clear-cell renal cell carcinoma (ccRCC), the von Hippel-Lindau (VHL) gene is frequently inactivated leading to constitutive activation of HIF-2 and/or HIF-1, which may be expected to upregulate REDD1 and inhibit mTORC1. However, mTORC1 is frequently activated in ccRCC and mTORC1 inhibitors are effective against this tumor type; a paradox herein examined. REDD1 was upregulated in VHL-deficient ccRCC by in silico microarray analyses, as well as by quantitative real-time PCR, Western blot, and immunohistochemistry. Vhl disruption in a mouse model was sufficient to induce Redd1. Using ccRCC-derived cell lines, we show that REDD1 upregulation in tumors is VHL-dependent, and that both HIF-1 and HIF-2 are, in a cell-type dependent manner, recruited to, and essential for, REDD1 induction. Interestingly, whereas mTORC1 is responsive to REDD1 in some tumors, strategies have evolved in others, such as mutations disrupting TSC1, to subvert mTORC1 inhibition by REDD1. Sequencing analyses of 77 ccRCCs for mutations in TSC1, TSC2 and REDD1, using PTEN as a reference, implicate the TSC1 gene, and possibly REDD1, as tumor suppressors in sporadic ccRCC. Understanding how ccRCCs become refractory to REDD1-induced mTORC1 inhibition should shed light into the development of ccRCC and may aid in patient selection for molecular targeted therapies.
PMCID: PMC3234675  PMID: 21798997
REDD1; DDIT4; mTORC1; VHL; RCC; HIF; nucleolus
12.  The Late Endosome is Essential for mTORC1 Signaling 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2010;21(5):833-841.
Recent work suggests a link between endocytic trafficking and mTORC1 signaling. This paper demonstrates a specific requirement for the integrity of the late endosomal compartment for amino acid and insulin-stimulated mTORC1 signaling to downstream effectors.
The multisubunit mTORC1 complex integrates signals from growth factors and nutrients to regulate protein synthesis, cell growth, and autophagy. To examine how endocytic trafficking might be involved in nutrient regulation of mTORC1, we perturbed specific endocytic trafficking pathways and measured mTORC1 activity using S6K1 as a readout. When early/late endosomal conversion was blocked by either overexpression of constitutively active Rab5 (Rab5CA) or knockdown of the Rab7 GEF hVps39, insulin- and amino acid–stimulated mTORC1/S6K1 activation were inhibited, and mTOR localized to hybrid early/late endosomes. Inhibition of other stages of endocytic trafficking had no effect on mTORC1. Overexpression of Rheb, which activates mTOR independently of mTOR localization, rescued mTORC1 signaling in cells expressing Rab5CA, whereas hyperactivation of endogenous Rheb in TSC2−/− MEFs did not. These data suggest that integrity of late endosomes is essential for amino acid– and insulin-stimulated mTORC1 signaling and that blocking the early/late endosomal conversion prevents mTOR from interacting with Rheb in the late endosomal compartment.
PMCID: PMC2828969  PMID: 20053679
13.  Glucose Amplifies Fatty Acid-Induced Endoplasmic Reticulum Stress in Pancreatic β-Cells via Activation of mTORC1 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(3):e4954.
Palmitate is a potent inducer of endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress in β-cells. In type 2 diabetes, glucose amplifies fatty-acid toxicity for pancreatic β-cells, leading to β-cell dysfunction and death. Why glucose exacerbates β-cell lipotoxicity is largely unknown. Glucose stimulates mTORC1, an important nutrient sensor involved in the regulation of cellular stress. Our study tested the hypothesis that glucose augments lipotoxicity by stimulating mTORC1 leading to increased β-cell ER stress.
Principal Findings
We found that glucose amplifies palmitate-induced ER stress by increasing IRE1α protein levels and activating the JNK pathway, leading to increased β-cell apoptosis. Moreover, glucose increased mTORC1 activity and its inhibition by rapamycin decreased β-cell apoptosis under conditions of glucolipotoxicity. Inhibition of mTORC1 by rapamycin did not affect proinsulin and total protein synthesis in β-cells incubated at high glucose with palmitate. However, it decreased IRE1α expression and signaling and inhibited JNK pathway activation. In TSC2-deficient mouse embryonic fibroblasts, in which mTORC1 is constitutively active, mTORC1 regulated the stimulation of JNK by ER stressors, but not in response to anisomycin, which activates JNK independent of ER stress. Finally, we found that JNK inhibition decreased β-cell apoptosis under conditions of glucolipotoxicity.
Collectively, our findings suggest that mTORC1 mediates glucose amplification of lipotoxicity, acting through activation of ER stress and JNK. Thus, mTORC1 is an important transducer of ER stress in β-cell glucolipotoxicity. Moreover, in stressed β-cells mTORC1 inhibition decreases IRE1α protein expression and JNK activity without affecting ER protein load, suggesting that mTORC1 regulates the β-cell stress response to glucose and fatty acids by modulating the synthesis and activity of specific proteins involved in the execution of the ER stress response. This novel paradigm may have important implications for understanding β-cell failure in type 2 diabetes.
PMCID: PMC2654723  PMID: 19305497
14.  Ubiquitin Hydrolase UCH-L1 Destabilizes mTOR Complex 1 by Antagonizing DDB1-CUL4-Mediated Ubiquitination of Raptor 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2013;33(6):1188-1197.
Mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) is a serine/threonine kinase that regulates processes including mRNA translation, proliferation, and survival. By assembling with different cofactors, mTOR forms two complexes with distinct biological functions. Raptor-bound mTOR (mTORC1) governs cap-dependent mRNA translation, whereas mTOR, rictor, and mSin1 (mTORC2) activate the survival and proliferative kinase Akt. How the balance between the competing needs for mTORC1 and -2 is controlled in normal cells and deregulated in disease is poorly understood. Here, we show that the ubiquitin hydrolase UCH-L1 regulates the balance of mTOR signaling by disrupting mTORC1. We find that UCH-L1 impairs mTORC1 activity toward S6 kinase and 4EBP1 while increasing mTORC2 activity toward Akt. These effects are directly attributable to a dramatic rearrangement in mTOR complex assembly. UCH-L1 disrupts a complex between the DDB1-CUL4 ubiquitin ligase complex and raptor and counteracts DDB1-CUL4-mediated raptor ubiquitination. These events lead to mTORC1 dissolution and a secondary increase in mTORC2. Experiments in Uchl1-deficient and transgenic mice suggest that the balance between these pathways is important for preventing neurodegeneration and the development of malignancy. These data establish UCH-L1 as a key regulator of the dichotomy between mTORC1 and mTORC2 signaling.
PMCID: PMC3592026  PMID: 23297343
15.  Autophagy-Dependent Metabolic Reprogramming Sensitizes TSC2-Deficient Cells to the Antimetabolite 6-Aminonicotinamide 
The mammalian target of rapamycin complex 1 (mTORC1) is hyperactive in many human cancers and in tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC). Autophagy, a key mTORC1 targeted process, is a critical determinant of metabolic homeostasis. Metabolomic profiling was performed to elucidate the cellular consequences of autophagy dysregulation under conditions of hyperactive mTORC1. It was discovered that TSC2-null cells have distinctive autophagy-dependent pentose phosphate pathway (PPP) alterations. This was accompanied by enhanced glucose uptake and utilization, decreased mitochondrial oxygen consumption, and increased mitochondrial ROS production. Importantly, these findings revealed that the PPP is a key autophagy-dependent compensatory metabolic mechanism. Furthermore, PPP inhibition with 6-aminonicotinamide (6-AN) in combination with autophagy inhibition suppressed proliferation and prompted the activation of NF-kB and CASP1 in TSC2-deficient, but not TSC2-proficient cells. These data demonstrate that TSC2-deficient cells can be therapeutically targeted, without mTORC1 inhibitors, by focusing on their metabolic vulnerabilities. Implications: This study provides proof-of-concept that therapeutic targeting of diseases with hyperactive mTORC1 can be achieved without the application of mTORC1 inhibitors.
PMCID: PMC4030750  PMID: 24296756
16.  ULK1 inhibits the kinase activity of mTORC1 and cell proliferation 
Autophagy  2011;7(10):1212-1221.
ULK1 (Unc51-like kinase, hATG1) is a Ser/Thr kinase that plays a key role in inducing autophagy in response to starvation. ULK1 is phosphorylated and negatively regulated by the mammalian target of rapamycin complex 1 (mTORC1). Previous studies have shown that ULK1 is not only a downstream effector of mTORC1 but also a negative regulator of mTORC1 signaling.1–3 Here, we investigated how ULK1 regulates mTORC1 signaling, and found that ULK1 inhibits the kinase activity of mTORC1 and cell proliferation. Deficiency or knockdown of ULK1 or its homolog ULK2 enhanced mTORC1 signaling, cell proliferation rates and accumulation of cell mass, whereas overexpression of ULK1 had the opposite effect. Knockdown of Atg13, the binding partner of ULK1 and ULK2, mimicked the effects of ULK1 or ULK2 deficiency or knockdown. Both insulin and leucine stimulated mTORC1 signaling to a greater extent when ULK1 or ULK2 was deficient or knocked down. In contrast, Atg5 deficiency did not have a significant effect on mTORC1 signaling and cell proliferation. The stimulatory effect of ULK1 knockdown on mTORC1 signaling occurred even in the absence of tuberous sclerosis complex 2 (TSC2), the negative regulator of mTORC1 signaling. In addition, ULK1 was found to bind raptor, induce its phosphorylation, and inhibit the kinase activity of mTORC1. These results demonstrate that ULK1 negatively regulates the kinase activity of mTORC1 and cell proliferation in a manner independent of Atg5 and TSC2. The inhibition of mTORC1 by ULK1 may be important to coordinately regulate cell growth and autophagy with optimized utilization of cellular energy.
PMCID: PMC3210307  PMID: 21795849
ULK1; ULK2; Atg5; raptor; mTOR
17.  CIP2A oncoprotein controls cell growth and autophagy through mTORC1 activation 
The Journal of Cell Biology  2014;204(5):713-727.
As part of a regulatory loop linking cell metabolism, growth, and proliferation, CIP2A promotes mTORC1-mediated cell growth and autophagy inhibition but is itself down-regulated by autophagy.
mTORC1 (mammalian target of rapamycin complex 1) integrates information regarding availability of nutrients and energy to coordinate protein synthesis and autophagy. Using ribonucleic acid interference screens for autophagy-regulating phosphatases in human breast cancer cells, we identify CIP2A (cancerous inhibitor of PP2A [protein phosphatase 2A]) as a key modulator of mTORC1 and autophagy. CIP2A associates with mTORC1 and acts as an allosteric inhibitor of mTORC1-associated PP2A, thereby enhancing mTORC1-dependent growth signaling and inhibiting autophagy. This regulatory circuit is reversed by ubiquitination and p62/SQSTM1-dependent autophagic degradation of CIP2A and subsequent inhibition of mTORC1 activity. Consistent with CIP2A’s reported ability to protect c-Myc against proteasome-mediated degradation, autophagic degradation of CIP2A upon mTORC1 inhibition leads to destabilization of c-Myc. These data characterize CIP2A as a distinct regulator of mTORC1 and reveals mTORC1-dependent control of CIP2A degradation as a mechanism that links mTORC1 activity with c-Myc stability to coordinate cellular metabolism, growth, and proliferation.
PMCID: PMC3941044  PMID: 24590173
18.  Aberrant hyperactivation of Akt and mammalian target of rapamycin complex 1 (mTORC1) signaling in sporadic chordomas 
Statement of Translational Relevance
Inhibitors of mammalian target of rapamycin complex 1 (mTORC1), such as rapamycin and its analogues, are currently being tested in clinical trial for TSC as well as many human cancers, which display hyperactivated mTORC1 signaling. mTORC1 has emerged as a critical integrator of signals from growth factor, nutrient, oxygen, and energy to regulate cell growth and proliferation. This study demonstrates for the first time that mTORC1 signaling is aberrantly hyperactivated in primary chordoma tumors/cell lines and PTEN deficiency may be frequently associated with sporadic chordomas. Furthermore, we show that the mTOR inhibitor rapamycin suppresses mTORC1 signaling and proliferation of chordoma-derived cell line. Therefore, this study not only reveals pathogenic mechanisms of chordomas, but also provides a rationale for initiating clinical trials of Akt/mTORC1 inhibition in patients with sporadic chordomas.
Chordomas are rare, malignant bone neoplasms in which the pathogenic mechanisms remain unknown. Interestingly, Tuberous Sclerosis Complex (TSC) is the only syndrome where the incidence of chordomas has been described. We previously reported the pathogenic role of the TSC genes in TSC-associated chordomas. In this study, we investigated whether aberrant TSC/mTORC1 signaling pathway is associated with sporadic chordomas.
Experimental Design
We assessed the status of mTORC1 signaling in primary tumors/cell lines of sacral chordomas and further examined upstream of mTORC1 signaling, including PTEN (phosphatase and tensin homologue deleted on chromosome ten) tumor suppressor. We also tested the efficacy of the mTOR inhibitor rapamycin on signaling and growth of chordoma cell lines.
Sporadic sacral chordoma tumors and cell lines examined commonly displayed hyperactivated Akt and mTORC1 signaling. Strikingly, expression of PTEN, a negative regulator of mTORC1 signaling, was not detected or significantly reduced in chordoma-derived cell lines and primary tumors. Furthermore, rapamycin inhibited mTORC1 activation and suppressed proliferation of chordoma-derived cell line.
Our results suggest that loss of PTEN as well as other genetic alterations which result in constitutive activation of Akt/mTORC1 signaling may contribute to the development of sporadic chordomas. More importantly, a combination of Akt and mTORC1 inhibition may provide clinical benefits to chordoma patients.
PMCID: PMC2701205  PMID: 19276265
chordomas; tuberous sclerosis complex; mTOR; PTEN; Akt
19.  The HPV16 E6 Oncoprotein Causes Prolonged Receptor Protein Tyrosine Kinase Signaling and Enhances Internalization of Phosphorylated Receptor Species 
PLoS Pathogens  2013;9(3):e1003237.
The high-risk human papillomavirus (HPV) E6 proteins are consistently expressed in HPV-associated lesions and cancers. HPV16 E6 sustains the activity of the mTORC1 and mTORC2 signaling cascades under conditions of growth factor deprivation. Here we report that HPV16 E6 activated mTORC1 by enhanced signaling through receptor protein tyrosine kinases, including epidermal growth factor receptor and insulin receptor and insulin-like growth factor receptors. This is evidenced by sustained signaling through these receptors for several hours after growth factor withdrawal. HPV16 E6 increased the internalization of activated receptor species, and the signaling adaptor protein GRB2 was shown to be critical for HPV16 E6 mediated enhanced EGFR internalization and mTORC1 activation. As a consequence of receptor protein kinase mediated mTORC1 activation, HPV16 E6 expression increased cellular migration of primary human epithelial cells. This study identifies a previously unappreciated mechanism by which HPV E6 proteins perturb host-signaling pathways presumably to sustain protein synthesis during the viral life cycle that may also contribute to cellular transforming activities of high-risk HPV E6 proteins.
Author Summary
High-risk human papillomavirus infections are associated with nearly all cases of cervical cancer. HPVs infect basal epithelial cells but virion production is restricted to the outer, terminally differentiated layers of the infected epithelia where supply of nutrients and growth factors may be limited. High-risk HPV E6 proteins have been shown to activate mTORC1 signaling and increase cap dependent translation. Here we show that HPV16 E6 activates the mTORC1 and MAP kinase signaling pathways through activating receptor protein tyrosine kinases (RPTKs) and increases EGFR internalization, even after growth factor withdrawal. The signaling adaptor protein GRB2 is a critical mediator of HPV16 E6 mediated EGFR internalization and mTORC1 activation. Lastly, we demonstrate that HPV16 E6 mediated activation of RPTK and mTORC1 signaling causes increased cellular migration even after growth factor withdrawal. These results suggest a previously unappreciated mechanism by which HPV E6 proteins may support the viral life cycle and that may contribute to the transforming activities of high-risk HPV E6 proteins. Hence, inhibition of RPTK signaling networks may be evaluated as a therapeutic strategy for HPV-associated lesions and cancers.
PMCID: PMC3597533  PMID: 23516367
20.  Dual Regulation of Cadmium-Induced Apoptosis by mTORC1 through Selective Induction of IRE1 Branches in Unfolded Protein Response 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(5):e64344.
Cadmium (Cd) causes generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) that trigger renal tubular injury. We found that rapamycin, an inhibitor of mTORC1, attenuated Cd-induced apoptosis in renal tubular cells. Knockdown of Raptor, a positive regulator of mTORC1, also had the similar effect. However, rapamycin did not alter generation of ROS, suggesting that mTORC1 is a target downstream of ROS. Indeed, ROS caused activation of mTORC1, which contributed to induction of a selective branch of the unfolded protein response (UPR); i.e., the IRE1 pathway. Although Cd triggered three major UPR pathways, activation of mTORC1 by Cd did not contribute to induction of the PERK–eIF2α and ATF6 pathways. Consistently, knockdown of Raptor caused suppression of JNK without affecting the PERK–eIF2α pathway in Cd-exposed cells. Knockdown of TSC2, a negative regulator of mTORC1, caused activation of mTORC1 and enhanced Cd induction of the IRE1–JNK pathway and apoptosis without affecting other UPR branches. Inhibition of IRE1α kinase led to suppression of JNK activity and apoptosis in Cd-treated cells. Dominant-negative inhibition of JNK also suppressed Cd-induced apoptosis. In contrast, inhibition of IRE1α endoribonuclease activity or downstream XBP1 modestly enhanced Cd-induced apoptosis. In vivo, administration with rapamycin suppressed activation of mTORC1 and JNK, but not eIF2α, in the kidney of Cd-treated mice. It was correlated with attenuation of tubular injury and apoptotic cell death in the tubules. These results elucidate dual regulation of Cd-induced renal injury by mTORC1 through selective induction of IRE1 signaling.
PMCID: PMC3655991  PMID: 23696882
21.  The impact of cow's milk-mediated mTORC1-signaling in the initiation and progression of prostate cancer 
Prostate cancer (PCa) is dependent on androgen receptor signaling and aberrations of the PI3K-Akt-mTORC1 pathway mediating excessive and sustained growth signaling. The nutrient-sensitive kinase mTORC1 is upregulated in nearly 100% of advanced human PCas. Oncogenic mTORC1 signaling activates key subsets of mRNAs that cooperate in distinct steps of PCa initiation and progression. Epidemiological evidence points to increased dairy protein consumption as a major dietary risk factor for the development of PCa. mTORC1 is a master regulator of protein synthesis, lipid synthesis and autophagy pathways that couple nutrient sensing to cell growth and cancer. This review provides evidence that PCa initiation and progression are promoted by cow´s milk, but not human milk, stimulation of mTORC1 signaling. Mammalian milk is presented as an endocrine signaling system, which activates mTORC1, promotes cell growth and proliferation and suppresses autophagy. Naturally, milk-mediated mTORC1 signaling is restricted only to the postnatal growth phase of mammals. However, persistent consumption of cow´s milk proteins in humans provide highly insulinotropic branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) provided by milk´s fast hydrolysable whey proteins, which elevate postprandial plasma insulin levels, and increase hepatic IGF-1 plasma concentrations by casein-derived amino acids. BCAAs, insulin and IGF-1 are pivotal activating signals of mTORC1. Increased cow´s milk protein-mediated mTORC1 signaling along with constant exposure to commercial cow´s milk estrogens derived from pregnant cows may explain the observed association between high dairy consumption and increased risk of PCa in Westernized societies. As well-balanced mTORC1-signaling plays an important role in appropriate prostate morphogenesis and differentiation, exaggerated mTORC1-signaling by high cow´s milk consumption predominantly during critical growth phases of prostate development and differentiation may exert long-term adverse effects on prostate health. Attenuation of mTORC1 signaling by contemporary Paleolithic diets and restriction of dairy protein intake, especially during mTORC1-dependent phases of prostate development and differentiation, may offer protection from the most common dairy-promoted cancer in men of Western societies.
PMCID: PMC3499189  PMID: 22891897
Cancer prevention; Dairy; Estrogens; IGF-1; Insulin; Leucine; Metformin; Milk signaling; Morphogenesis; mTORC1; Prostate cancer
22.  Stromal Liver Kinase B1 [STK11] Signaling Loss Induces Oviductal Adenomas and Endometrial Cancer by Activating Mammalian Target of Rapamycin Complex 1 
PLoS Genetics  2012;8(8):e1002906.
Germline mutations of the Liver Kinase b1 (LKB1/STK11) tumor suppressor gene have been linked to Peutz-Jeghers Syndrome (PJS), an autosomal-dominant, cancer-prone disorder in which patients develop neoplasms in several organs, including the oviduct, ovary, and cervix. We have conditionally deleted Lkb1 in Müllerian duct mesenchyme-derived cells of the female reproductive tract and observed expansion of the stromal compartment and hyperplasia and/or neoplasia of adjacent epithelial cells throughout the reproductive tract with paratubal cysts and adenomyomas in oviducts and, eventually, endometrial cancer. Examination of the proliferation marker phospho-histone H3 and mammalian Target Of Rapamycin Complex 1 (mTORC1) pathway members revealed increased proliferation and mTORC1 activation in stromal cells of both the oviduct and uterus. Treatment with rapamycin, an inhibitor of mTORC1 activity, decreased tumor burden in adult Lkb1 mutant mice. Deletion of the genes for Tuberous Sclerosis 1 (Tsc1) or Tsc2, regulators of mTORC1 that are downstream of LKB1 signaling, in the oviductal and uterine stroma phenocopies some of the defects observed in Lkb1 mutant mice, confirming that dysregulated mTORC1 activation in the Lkb1-deleted stroma contributes to the phenotype. Loss of PTEN, an upstream regulator of mTORC1 signaling, along with Lkb1 deletion significantly increased tumor burden in uteri and induced tumorigenesis in the cervix and vagina. These studies show that LKB1/TSC1/TSC2/mTORC1 signaling in mesenchymal cells is important for the maintenance of epithelial integrity and suppression of carcinogenesis in adjacent epithelial cells. Because similar changes in the stromal population are also observed in human oviductal/ovarian adenoma and endometrial adenocarcinoma patients, we predict that dysregulated mTORC1 activity by upstream mechanisms similar to those described in these model systems contributes to the pathogenesis of these human diseases.
Author Summary
Peutz-Jeghers Syndrome patients have autosomal dominant mutations in the LKB1/STK11 gene and are prone to developing cancer, predominantly in the intestinal tract but also in other tissues, including the reproductive tracts and gonads. To elucidate the mechanisms disrupted by the loss of LKB1 in the reproductive tract, we have developed a mouse model with deletion of Lkb1 specifically in stromal cells of gynecologic tissues. These mice show stromal cell expansion and develop oviductal adenomas and endometrial cancer. Deletion of either Tsc1 or Tsc2 genes, which are mutated in patients with Tuberous Sclerosis Complex and whose protein products are indirect downstream targets of LKB1 signaling, resulted in some of the same defects observed in Lkb1 mutant mice. Activation of mammalian Target Of Rapamycin Complex 1 (mTORC1), a common effector of disrupted LKB1, TSC1, and TSC2 signaling, was observed in all mutant tissues examined, suggesting that uninhibited mTORC1 activity is necessary for the phenotypes. Suppression of mTORC1 signaling by rapamycin reduced tumor burden in Lkb1 mutant mice, confirming the link between dysregulation of mTORC1 to development of the Lkb1 mutant phenotype and suggesting that therapeutic targeting of LKB1/TSC1/TSC2/mTORC1 signaling would benefit human Peutz-Jeghers Syndrome and Tuberous Sclerosis patients with reproductive tract disease.
PMCID: PMC3420942  PMID: 22916036
23.  Signaling events downstream of mTOR complex 2 are attenuated in cells and tumors deficient for the tuberous sclerosis complex tumor suppressors 
Cancer research  2009;69(15):6107-6114.
Mutations in TSC1 and TSC2 tumor suppressor genes give rise to the neoplastic disorders tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC) and lymphangioleiomyomatosis (LAM). Their gene products form a complex that is a critical negative regulator of mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) complex 1 (mTORC1) and cell growth. We recently found that the TSC1-TSC2 complex promotes the activity of mTOR complex 2 (mTORC2), an upstream activator of Akt, and this occurs independent of its inhibitory effects on mTORC1. Loss of mTORC2 activity in cells lacking the TSC1-TSC2 complex, coupled with mTORC1-mediated feedback mechanisms, leads to strong attenuation of the growth factor-stimulated phosphorylation of Akt on S473. In this study, we demonstrate that both PI3K-dependent and independent mTORC2 substrates are affected by loss of the TSC1-TSC2 complex in cell culture models and kidney tumors from both Tsc2+/− mice (i.e., adenoma) and TSC patients (i.e., angiomyolipoma). These mTORC2 targets are all members of the AGC kinase family and include Akt, protein kinase C (PKCα), and serum and glucocorticoid-induced protein kinase (SGK1). We also demonstrate that the TSC1-TSC2 complex can directly stimulate the in vitro kinase activity of mTORC2. The interaction between these two complexes is mediated primarily through regions on TSC2 and a core component of mTORC2 called Rictor. Hence, loss of the TSC tumor suppressors results in elevated mTORC1 signaling and attenuated mTORC2 signaling. These findings suggest that the TSC1-TSC2 complex plays opposing roles in tumor progression, both blocking and promoting specific oncogenic pathways through its effects on mTORC1 inhibition and mTORC2 activation, respectively.
PMCID: PMC2735013  PMID: 19602587
24.  mTORC2-SGK-1 acts in two environmentally responsive pathways with opposing effects on longevity 
Aging Cell  2014;13(5):869-878.
The nematode worm Caenorhabditis elegans provides a powerful system for elucidating how genetic, metabolic, nutritional, and environmental factors influence aging. The mechanistic target of rapamycin (mTOR) kinase is important in growth, disease, and aging and is present in the mTORC1 and mTORC2 complexes. In diverse eukaryotes, lifespan can be increased by inhibition of mTORC1, which transduces anabolic signals to stimulate protein synthesis and inhibit autophagy. Less is understood about mTORC2, which affects C. elegans lifespan in a complex manner that is influenced by the bacterial food source. mTORC2 regulates C. elegans growth, reproduction, and lipid metabolism by activating the SGK-1 kinase, but current data on SGK-1 and lifespan seem to be conflicting. Here, by analyzing the mTORC2 component Rictor (RICT-1), we show that mTORC2 modulates longevity by activating SGK-1 in two pathways that affect lifespan oppositely. RICT-1/mTORC2 limits longevity by directing SGK-1 to inhibit the stress-response transcription factor SKN-1/Nrf in the intestine. Signals produced by the bacterial food source determine how this pathway affects SKN-1 and lifespan. In addition, RICT-1/mTORC2 functions in neurons in an SGK-1-mediated pathway that increases lifespan at lower temperatures. RICT-1/mTORC2 and SGK-1 therefore oppose or accelerate aging depending upon the context in which they are active. Our findings reconcile data on SGK-1 and aging, show that the bacterial microenvironment influences SKN-1/Nrf, mTORC2 functions, and aging, and identify two longevity-related mTORC2 functions that involve SGK-regulated responses to environmental cues.
PMCID: PMC4172656  PMID: 25040785
aging; microbiome; mTORC2; rictor; serum- and glucocorticoid-regulated kinase; SKN-1/Nrf
25.  The mTOR Pathway Controls Cell Proliferation by Regulating the FoxO3a Transcription Factor via SGK1 Kinase 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(2):e88891.
The mechanistic target of rapamycin (mTOR) functions as a component of two large complexes, mTORC1 and mTORC2, which play crucial roles in regulating cell growth and homeostasis. However, the molecular mechanisms by which mTOR controls cell proliferation remain elusive. Here we show that the FoxO3a transcription factor is coordinately regulated by mTORC1 and mTORC2, and plays a crucial role in controlling cell proliferation. To dissect mTOR signaling, mTORC1 was specifically inactivated by depleting p18, an essential anchor of mTORC1 on lysosomes. mTORC1 inactivation caused a marked retardation of cell proliferation, which was associated with upregulation of cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitors (CDKIs). Although Akt was activated by mTORC1 inactivation, FoxO3a was upregulated via an epigenetic mechanism and hypophosphorylated at Ser314, which resulted in its nuclear accumulation. Consistently, mTORC1 inactivation induced downregulation of serum- and glucocorticoid-inducible kinase 1 (SGK1), the kinase responsible for Ser314 phosphorylation. Expression of FoxO3a mutated at Ser314 suppressed cell proliferation by inducing CDKI expression. SGK1 overexpression suppressed CDKI expression in p18-deficient cells, whereas SGK1 knockdown induced CDKI expression in wild-type cells, resulting in the suppression of cell proliferation. These results suggest that mTORC1, in coordination with mTORC2, controls cell proliferation by regulating FoxO3a gene expression and SGK1-mediated phosphorylation of FoxO3a at Ser314.
PMCID: PMC3928304  PMID: 24558442

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