Lymphangioleiomyomatosis (LAM), a multisystem disease of women, is manifest by the proliferation of smooth muscle-like cells in the lung resulting in cystic lung destruction. Women with LAM can also develop renal angiomyolipomas. LAM is caused by mutations in the tuberous sclerosis complex genes (TSC1 or TSC2), resulting in hyperactive mammalian Target of Rapamycin (mTOR) signaling. The mTOR inhibitor, Rapamycin, stabilizes lung function in LAM and decreases the volume of renal angiomyolipomas, but lung function declines and angiomyolipomas regrow when treatment is discontinued, suggesting that factors induced by mTORC1 inhibition may promote the survival of TSC2-deficient cells. Whether microRNA (miRNA, miR) signaling is involved in the response of LAM to mTORC1 inhibition is unknown. We identified Rapamycin-dependent miRNA in LAM patient angiomyolipoma-derived cells using two separate screens. First, we assayed 132 miRNA of known significance to tumor biology. Using a cut-off of >1.5-fold change, 48 microRNA were Rapamycin-induced, while 4 miRs were downregulated. In a second screen encompassing 946 miRNA, 18 miRs were upregulated by Rapamycin, while eight were downregulated. Dysregulation of miRs 29b, 21, 24, 221, 106a and 199a were common to both platforms and were classified as candidate “RapamiRs.” Validation by qRT-PCR confirmed that these microRNA were increased. miR-21, a pro-survival miR, was the most significantly increased by mTOR-inhibition (p<0.01). The regulation of miR-21 by Rapamycin is cell type independent. mTOR inhibition promotes the processing of the miR-21 transcript (pri-miR-21) to a premature form (pre-miR-21). In conclusion, our findings demonstrate that Rapamycin upregulates multiple miRs, including pro-survival miRs, in TSC2-deficient patient-derived cells. The induction of miRs may contribute to the response of LAM and TSC patients to Rapamycin therapy.
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.
Tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC) is a relatively rare autosomal dominant disorder characterized by widespread benign tumor formation in a variety of organs. Mutations in either TSC1 or TSC2 tumor suppressor gene are responsible for TSC. The gene products of TSC1 and TSC2, also known as hamartin and tuberin, respectively, form a physical and functional complex and inhibit the mammalian target of rapamycin complex 1 (mTORC1) signaling. The mTORC1 pathway is an evolutionarily conserved growth promoting pathway. mTORC1 plays an essential role in a wide array of cellular processes including translation, transcription, trafficking and autophagy. In this review, we will discuss recent progresses in the TSC-mTOR field and their physiological functions and alterations of this pathway in pathophysiology.
Mutational inactivation of the tumor suppressor tuberous sclerosis complex 2 (TSC2) constitutively activates mTORC1, increases cell proliferation, and induces the pathological manifestations observed in tuberous sclerosis (TS) and in pulmonary lymphangioleiomyomatosis (LAM). While the role of mTORC1 in TSC2-dependent growth has been extensively characterized, little is known about the role of mTORC2. Our data demonstrate that mTORC2 modulates TSC2-null cell proliferation and survival through RhoA GTPase and Bcl2 proteins. TSC2-null cell proliferation was inhibited not only by reexpression of TSC2 or small interfering RNA (siRNA)-induced downregulation of Rheb, mTOR, or raptor, but also by siRNA for rictor. Increased RhoA GTPase activity and P-Ser473 Akt were inhibited by siRNA for rictor. Importantly, constitutively active V14RhoA reversed growth inhibition induced by siRNA for rictor, siRNA TSC1, reexpression of TSC2, or simvastatin. While siRNA for RhoA had a modest effect on growth inhibition, downregulation of RhoA markedly increased TSC2-null cell apoptosis. Inhibition of RhoA activity downregulated antiapoptotic Bcl2 and upregulated proapoptotic Bim, Bok, and Puma. In vitro and in vivo, simvastatin alone or in combination with rapamycin inhibited cell growth and induced TSC2-null cell apoptosis, abrogated TSC2-null tumor growth, improved animal survival, and prevented tumor recurrence by inhibiting cell growth and promoting apoptosis. Our data demonstrate that mTORC2-dependent activation of RhoA is required for TSC2-null cell growth and survival and suggest that targeting both mTORC2 and mTORC1 by a combination of proapoptotic simvastatin and cytostatic rapamycin shows promise for combinational therapeutic intervention in diseases with TSC2 dysfunction.
The tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC) tumor suppressors form the TSC1-TSC2 complex, which limits cell growth in response to poor growth conditions. Through its GTPase-activating protein (GAP) activity toward Rheb, this complex inhibits the mechanistic target of rapamycin (mTOR) complex 1 (mTORC1), a key promoter of cell growth. Here, we identify and biochemically characterize TBC1D7 as a stably-associated and ubiquitous third core subunit of the TSC1-TSC2 complex. We demonstrate that the TSC1-TSC2-TBC1D7 (TSC-TBC) complex is the functional complex that senses specific cellular growth conditions and possesses Rheb-GAP activity. Sequencing analyses of samples from TSC patients suggest that TBC1D7 is unlikely to represent TSC3. TBC1D7 knockdown decreases the association of TSC1 and TSC2 leading to decreased Rheb-GAP activity, without effects on the localization of TSC2 to the lysosome. Like the other TSC-TBC components, TBC1D7 knockdown results in increased mTORC1 signaling, delayed induction of autophagy, and enhanced cell growth under poor growth conditions.
Tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC) is a multi-organ disorder caused by mutations of the TSC1 or TSC2 genes. A key function of these genes is to inhibit mTORC1 (mechanistic target of rapamycin complex 1) kinase signaling. Cells deficient for TSC1 or TSC2 have increased mTORC1 signaling and give rise to benign tumors, although, as a rule, true malignancies are rarely seen. In contrast, other disorders with increased mTOR signaling typically have overt malignancies. A better understanding of genetic mechanisms that govern the transformation of benign cells to malignant ones is crucial to understand cancer pathogenesis. We generated a zebrafish model of TSC and cancer progression by placing a heterozygous mutation of the tsc2 gene in a p53 mutant background. Unlike tsc2 heterozygous mutant zebrafish, which never exhibited cancers, compound tsc2;p53 mutants had malignant tumors in multiple organs. Tumorigenesis was enhanced compared with p53 mutant zebrafish. p53 mutants also had increased mTORC1 signaling that was further enhanced in tsc2;p53 compound mutants. We found increased expression of Hif1-α, Hif2-α and Vegf-c in tsc2;p53 compound mutant zebrafish compared with p53 mutant zebrafish. Expression of these proteins probably underlies the increased angiogenesis seen in compound mutant zebrafish compared with p53 mutants and might further drive cancer progression. Treatment of p53 and compound mutant zebrafish with the mTORC1 inhibitor rapamycin caused rapid shrinkage of tumor size and decreased caliber of tumor-associated blood vessels. This is the first report using an animal model to show interactions between tsc2, mTORC1 and p53 during tumorigenesis. These results might explain why individuals with TSC rarely have malignant tumors, but also suggest that cancer arising in individuals without TSC might be influenced by the status of TSC1 and/or TSC2 mutations and be potentially treatable with mTORC1 inhibitors.
Tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC) is caused by heterozygous mutations in either the TSC1 (hamartin) or the TSC2 (tuberin) gene. Among the multisystemic manifestations of TSC, the neurodevelopmental features cause the most morbidity and mortality, presenting a considerable clinical challenge. Hamartin and tuberin form a heterodimer that inhibits the mammalian target of rapamycin complex 1 (mTORC1) kinase, a major cellular regulator of protein translation, cell growth and proliferation. Hyperactivated mTORC1 signaling, an important feature of TSC, has prompted a number of preclinical and clinical studies with the mTORC1 inhibitor rapamycin. Equally exciting is the prospect of treating TSC in the perinatal period to block the progression of brain pathologies and allow normal brain development to proceed. We hypothesized that low-dose rapamycin given prenatally and/or postnatally in a well-established neuroglial (Tsc2-hGFAP) model of TSC would rescue brain developmental defects. We developed three treatment regimens with low-dose intraperitoneal rapamycin (0.1 mg/kg): prenatal, postnatal and pre/postnatal (combined). Combined rapamycin treatment resulted in almost complete histologic rescue, with a well-organized cortex and hippocampus almost identical to control animals. Other treatment regimens yielded less complete, but significant improvements in brain histology. To assess how treatment regimens affected cognitive function, we continued rapamycin treatment after weaning and performed behavioral testing. Surprisingly, the animals treated with the combined therapy did not perform as well as postnatally-treated animals in learning and memory tasks. These results have important translational implications in the optimization of the timing and dosage of rapamycin treatment in TSC affected children.
The signaling pathways imposing hormonal control over adipocyte differentiation are poorly understood. While insulin and Akt signaling have been found previously to be essential for adipogenesis, the relative importance of their many downstream branches have not been defined. One direct substrate that is inhibited by Akt-mediated phosphorylation is the tuberous sclerosis complex 2 (TSC2) protein, which associates with TSC1 and acts as a critical negative regulator of the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) complex 1 (mTORC1). Loss of function of the TSC1-TSC2 complex results in constitutive mTORC1 signaling and, through mTORC1-dependent feedback mechanisms and loss of mTORC2 activity, leads to a concomitant block of Akt signaling to its other downstream targets.
We find that, despite severe insulin resistance and the absence of Akt signaling, TSC2-deficient mouse embryo fibroblasts and 3T3-L1 pre-adipocytes display enhanced adipocyte differentiation that is dependent on the elevated mTORC1 activity in these cells. Activation of mTORC1 causes a robust increase in the mRNA and protein expression of peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma (PPARγ), which is the master transcriptional regulator of adipocyte differentiation. In examining the requirements for different Akt-mediated phosphorylation sites on TSC2, we find that only TSC2 mutants lacking all five previously identified Akt sites fully block insulin-stimulated mTORC1 signaling in reconstituted Tsc2 null cells, and this mutant also inhibits adipogenesis. Finally, renal angiomyolipomas from patients with tuberous sclerosis complex contain both adipose and smooth muscle-like components with activated mTORC1 signaling and elevated PPARγ expression.
This study demonstrates that activation of mTORC1 signaling is a critical step in adipocyte differentiation and identifies TSC2 as a primary target of Akt driving this process. Therefore, the TSC1-TSC2 complex regulates the differentiation of mesenchymal cell lineages, at least in part, through its control of mTORC1 activity and PPARγ expression.
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.
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.
chordomas; tuberous sclerosis complex; mTOR; PTEN; Akt
The mechanisms that control toll-like receptor induced responses including endotoxin tolerance have been not well understood. The tuberous sclerosis complex 1 (TSC1) is a tumor suppressor that inhibits the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR). We show here that deficiency of TSC1 results in enhanced activation of not only mTOR complex 1 (mTORC1), but also JNK1/2, following lipopolysaccharide stimulation in macrophages. TSC1 deficient macrophages produce elevated proinflammatory cytokines and nitric oxide in response to multiple TLR ligands. Such enhanced TLR-induced responses can be inhibited by reducing mTORC1 and JNK1/2 activities with chemical inhibitors or small hairpin RNA, suggesting that TSC1 negatively controls TLR responses through both mTORC1 and JNK1/2. The impact of TSC1 deficiency appeared not limited to TLRs, as NOD- and -RIG-I/MDA-5 induced innate responses were also altered in TSC1 deficient macrophages. Furthermore, TSC1 deficiency appears to cause impaired induction of endotoxin tolerance in vitro and in vivo, which is correlated with increased JNK1/2 activation and can be reversed by JNK1/2 inhibition. Our results reveal a critical role of TSC1 in regulating innate immunity by negative control of mTORC1 and JNK1/2 activation.
The tumor-suppressor genes TSC1 and TSC2 are mutated in tuberous sclerosis, an autosomal dominant multisystem disorder. The gene products of TSC1 and TSC2 form a protein complex that inhibits the signaling of the mammalian target of rapamycin complex1 (mTORC1) pathway. mTORC1 is a crucial molecule in the regulation of cell growth, proliferation and survival. When the TSC1/TSC2 complex is not functional, uncontrolled mTORC1 activity accelerates the cell cycle and triggers tumorigenesis. Recent studies have suggested that TSC1 and TSC2 also regulate the activities of Rac1 and Rho, members of the Rho family of small GTPases, and thereby influence the ensuing actin cytoskeletal organization at focal adhesions. However, how TSC1 contributes to the establishment of cell polarity is not well understood. Here, the relationship between TSC1 and the formation of the actin cytoskeleton was analyzed in stable TSC1-expressing cell lines originally established from a Tsc1-deficient mouse renal tumor cell line. Our analyses showed that cell proliferation and migration were suppressed when TSC1 was expressed. Rac1 activity in these cells was also decreased as was formation of lamellipodia and filopodia. Furthermore, the number of basal actin stress fibers was reduced; by contrast, apical actin fibers, originating at the level of the tight junction formed a network in TSC1-expressing cells. Treatment with Rho-kinase (ROCK) inhibitor diminished the number of apical actin fibers, but rapamycin had no effect. Thus, the actin fibers were regulated by the Rho-ROCK pathway independently of mTOR. In addition, apical actin fibers appeared in TSC1-deficient cells after inhibition of Rac1 activity. These results suggest that TSC1 regulates cell polarity-associated formation of actin fibers through the spatial regulation of Rho family of small GTPases.
Dysregulated activity of phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K) and mammalian target of rapamycin complex 1 (mTORC1) is characteristic feature of hamartoma syndromes. Hamartoma syndromes, dominantly inherited cancer predisposition disorders, affect multiple organs and are manifested by benign tumors consisting of various cell types native to the tissues in which they arise. In the past few years, three inherited hamartoma syndromes, Cowden syndrome (CS), tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC) syndrome, and Peutz-Jeghens syndrome (PJS), have all been linked to a common biochemical pathway: the hyperactivation of PI3K/mTORC1 intracellular signaling. Three tumor suppressors, PTEN (phosphatases and tensin homolog), tuberous sclerosis complex TSC1/TSC2, and LKB1, are negative regulators of PI3K/mTORC1 signaling; disease-related inactivation of these tumor suppressors results in the development of PTEN-associated hamartoma syndromes, TSC and PJS, respectively. The goal of this review is to provide a roadmap for navigating the inherently complex regulation of PI3K/mTORC1 signaling while highlighting the progress that has been made in elucidating the cellular and molecular mechanisms of hamartoma syndromes and identificating potential therapeutic targets for their treatment. Importantly, because the PI3K/mTORC1 pathway is activated in the majority of common human cancers, the identification of novel molecular target(s) for the treatment of hamartoma syndromes may have a broader translational potential, and is critically important not only for therapeutic intervention in hamartoma disorders, but also for the treatment of cancers.
PI3K; mTORC1; PTEN; cancer; lung; kidney; TSC; LAM; biomarker; therapy
The mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) is a protein kinase that forms two functionally distinct complexes important for nutrient and growth factor signaling. Both complexes phosphorylate a hydrophobic motif on downstream protein kinases, which contributes to the activation of these kinases. mTOR complex 1 (mTORC1) phosphorylates S6K1, while mTORC2 phosphorylates Akt. The TSC1-TSC2 complex is a critical negative regulator of mTORC1. However, how mTORC2 is regulated and whether the TSC1-TSC2 complex is involved are unknown. We find that mTORC2 isolated from a variety of cells lacking a functional TSC1-TSC2 complex is impaired in its kinase activity toward Akt. Importantly, the defect in mTORC2 activity in these cells can be separated from effects on mTORC1 signaling and known feedback mechanisms affecting insulin receptor substrate-1 and phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase. Our data also suggest that the TSC1-TSC2 complex positively regulates mTORC2 in a manner independent of its GTPase-activating protein activity toward Rheb. Finally, we find that the TSC1-TSC2 complex can physically associate with mTORC2 but not mTORC1. These data demonstrate that the TSC1-TSC2 complex inhibits mTORC1 and activates mTORC2, which through different mechanisms promotes Akt activation.
Lymphangioleiomyomatosis (LAM), a rare cystic lung disease with multi-organ involvement, occurs primarily in women of childbearing age. LAM can present sporadically or in association with tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC). Loss of lung function in patients with LAM can be attributed to the dysregulated growth of LAM cells, with dysfunctional TSC1 or TSC2 genes, which encode hamartin and tuberin, respectively, leading to hyperactivation of the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR). LAM cells are smooth muscle-like cells that express melanoma antigens such as gp100, a splice variant of the Pmel17 gene. Tuberin and hamartin form heterodimers that act as negative regulators of mTOR. Lack of TSC2 function, as occurs in LAM cells, leads to the production of the chemokine CCL2/monocyte chemotactic protein 1 (MCP-1), which increases LAM cell mobility. Although many chemokines and their receptors could influence LAM cell mobilization, we propose that a positive-feedback loop is generated when dysfunctional TSC2 is present in LAM cells. We identified a group of chemokine receptors that is expressed in LAM cells and differs from those on smooth muscle and melanoma cells (Malme-3M). Chemokines have been implicated in tumor metastasis, and our data suggest a role for chemokines in LAM cell mobilization and thereby in the pathogenesis of LAM.
cell motility; chemokines; chemokine receptors; cystic lung disease; lymphangioleiomyomatosis; metastasis; mammalian target of rapamycin; smooth muscle cells; tuberous sclerosis complex
The PI3K-Akt pathway together with one of its downstream targets, the mechanistic target of rapamycin (mTOR; also known as the mammalian target of rapamycin) is a highly deregulated pathway in cancers. mTOR exists in two complexes, mTORC1 and mTORC2. Akt phosphorylated at T308 inhibits TSC1/2 complex to activate mTORC1; mTORC2 is recognized as the kinase phosphorylating Akt at S473. Inhibition of autophagy by mTORC1 was shown to rescue disheveled (Dvl) leading to activation of Wnt pathway. Cyclin D1 and the c-Myc are activated by the Wnt signaling. Cyclin D1 is a key player in initiation of cell cycle. c-Myc triggers metabolic reprograming in G1 phase of cell cycle, which also activates the transcription factors like FoxO and p53 that play key roles in promoting the progression of cell cycle. While the role of p53 in cancer cell metabolism in arresting glycolysis and inhibition of pentose phosphate pathway has come to be recognized, there are confusions in the literature on the role of FoxO and that of rictor. FoxO was shown to be the transcription factor of rictor, in addition to the cell cycle inhibitors like p21. Rictor has dual roles; inhibition of c-Myc and constitution of mTORC2, both of which are key factors in the exit of G1-S phase and entry into G2 phase of cell cycle. A model is presented in this article, which suggests that the PI3K-Akt-mTOR and Wnt pathways converge and regulate the progression of cell cycle through G0-G1-S-phases and reprogram the metabolism in cancer cells. This model is different from the conventional method of looking at individual pathways triggering the cell cycle.
mTORC1; autophagy; Wnt; G1-S; cell cycle
The mTORC1 pathway is a central regulator of cell growth, and defective mTORC1 regulation plays a causative role in a variety of human diseases, including cancer, tumor syndromes such as the tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC) and lymphangioleiomyomatosis (LAM), and metabolic diseases such as diabetes and obesity. Given the importance of mTORC1 signaling in these diseases, there has been significant interest in developing screening methods suitable for identifying inhibitors of mTORC1 activation. To this end, we have developed a high-throughput, cell-based assay for the detection of rpS6-phosphorylation as a measure of mTORC1 signaling. This assay takes advantage of the “In Cell Western” (ICW) technique using the Aerius infrared imaging system (LI-COR® Biosciences). The ICW procedure involves fixation and immunostaining of cells in a manner similar to standard immunofluorescence methods but takes advantage of secondary antibodies conjugated to infrared-excitable fluorophores for quantitative detection by the Aerius® scanner. In addition, the cells are stained with an infrared-excitable succinimidyl ester dye, which covalently modifies free amine groups in fixed cells and provides a quantitative measure of cell number. We present validation data and pilot screens in a 384-well format demonstrating that this assay provides a statistically robust method for both small molecule and siRNA screening approaches designed to identify inhibitors of mTORC1 signaling.
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is reported in 30 to 60% of patients with tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC) but shared genetic mechanisms that exist between TSC-associated ASD and idiopathic ASD have yet to be determined. Through the small G-protein Rheb, the TSC proteins, hamartin and tuberin, negatively regulate mammalian target of rapamycin complex 1 (mTORC1) signaling. It is well established that mTORC1 plays a pivotal role in neuronal translation and connectivity, so dysregulation of mTORC1 signaling could be a common feature in many ASDs. Pam, an E3 ubiquitin ligase, binds to TSC proteins and regulates mTORC1 signaling in the CNS, and the FBXO45-Pam ubiquitin ligase complex plays an essential role in neurodevelopment by regulating synapse formation and growth. Since mounting evidence has established autism as a disorder of the synapses, we tested whether rare genetic variants in TSC1, TSC2, MYCBP2, RHEB and FBXO45, genes that regulate mTORC1 signaling and/or play a role in synapse development and function, contribute to the pathogenesis of idiopathic ASD.
Exons and splice junctions of TSC1, TSC2, MYCBP2, RHEB and FBXO45 were resequenced for 300 ASD trios from the Simons Simplex Collection (SSC) using a pooled PCR amplification and next-generation sequencing strategy, targeted to the discovery of deleterious coding variation. These detected, potentially functional, variants were confirmed by Sanger sequencing of the individual samples comprising the pools in which they were identified.
We identified a total of 23 missense variants in MYCBP2, TSC1 and TSC2. These variants exhibited a near equal distribution between the proband and parental pools, with no statistical excess in ASD cases (P > 0.05). All proband variants were inherited. No putative deleterious variants were confirmed in RHEB and FBXO45. Three intronic variants, identified as potential splice defects in MYCBP2 did not show aberrant splicing upon RNA assay. Overall, we did not find an over-representation of ASD causal variants in the genes studied to support them as contributors to autism susceptibility.
We did not observe an enrichment of rare functional variants in TSC1 and TSC2 genes in our sample set of 300 trios.
Autism spectrum disorder; Tuberous sclerosis complex; Mammalian target of rapamycin; Next-generation sequencing; Rare variants
Constitutive activation of mammalian target of rapamycin complex 1 (mTORC1), a key kinase complex that regulates cell size and growth, is observed with inactivating mutations of either of the tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC) genes, Tsc1 and Tsc2. Tsc1 and Tsc2 are highly expressed in cardiovascular tissue but their functional role there is unknown. We generated a tissue-specific knock-out of Tsc1, using a conditional allele of Tsc1 and a cre recombinase allele regulated by the smooth muscle protein-22 (SM22) promoter (Tsc1c/cSM22cre+/−) to constitutively activate mTOR in cardiovascular tissue. Significant gene recombination (∼80%) occurred in the heart by embryonic day (E) 15, and reduction in Tsc1 expression with increased levels of phosphorylated S6 kinase (S6K) and S6 was observed, consistent with constitutive activation of mTORC1. Cardiac hypertrophy was evident by E15 with post-natal progression to heart weights of 142 ± 24 mg in Tsc1c/cSM22cre+/− mice versus 65 ± 14 mg in controls (P < 0.01). Median survival of Tsc1c/cSM22cre+/− mice was 24 days, with none surviving beyond 6 weeks. Pathologic and echocardiographic analysis revealed severe biventricular hypertrophy without evidence of fibrosis or myocyte disarray, and significant reduction in the left ventricular end-diastolic diameter (P < 0.001) and fractional index (P < 0.001). Inhibition of mTORC1 by rapamycin resulted in prolonged survival of Tsc1c/cSM22cre+/− mice, with regression of ventricular hypertrophy. These data support a critical role for the Tsc1/Tsc2-mTORC1-S6K axis in the normal development of cardiovascular tissue and also suggest possible therapeutic potential of rapamycin in cardiac disorders where pathologic mTORC1 activation occurs.
Tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC) is a neurogenetic disorder that often causes brain abnormalities leading to epilepsy, developmental delay and autism. TSC is caused by inactivating mutations in either of the genes encoding the proteins hamartin (TSC1) and tuberin (TSC2). These proteins form a heterodimer that inhibits the mammalian target of rapamycin complex 1 (mTORC1) pathway, controlling translation and cell growth. Loss of either protein results in dysregulated mTORC1 activation, an important aspect of TSC pathogenesis. About thirty percent of TSC patients have cerebellar pathology that is poorly understood. To investigate the effects of TSC on the cerebellum, we created a mouse model in which the Tsc2 gene was selectively deleted from Purkinje cells starting at postnatal day 6 (P6). The loss of Tsc2 caused a progressive increase in Purkinje cell size and subsequent death from apoptosis. Purkinje cell loss was predominantly cell type specific and associated with motor deficits. Immunohistochemical analysis showed that both endoplasmic reticulum (ER) and oxidative stress were increased in Tsc2-null Purkinje cells. The cell death and ER stress phenotypes were rescued by treatment with the mTORC1 inhibitor rapamycin. To assess whether the murine Purkinje cell loss has a correlate to the human TSC, we analyzed postmortem cerebellum samples from TSC patients and detected Purkinje cell loss is half of the samples. Our results establish a critical role for the TSC complex in Purkinje cell survival by regulating ER and oxidative stress, and reveal a novel aspect of TSC neuropathology.
Purkinje cell; Tsc2; Tuberin; Tuberous sclerosis complex; Neurodegeneration
The mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) complex 1 (mTORC1) is a nutrient sensitive protein kinase that is aberrantly activated in many human cancers. However, whether dysregulation of mTORC1 signaling in normal tissues contributes to cancer risk is unknown. Here, we focused on hepatocellular carcinoma because it is a cancer with clear links to environmental factors that affect mTORC1, including dietary influences. Genetic ablation of the mTORC1 inhibitory component Tsc1 results in constitutively elevated mTORC1 signaling, an effect similar to that of obesity on this pathway. We found that mice with liver-specific knockout of Tsc1 developed sporadic hepatocellular carcinoma with heterogeneous histological and biochemical features. The spontaneous development of hepatocellular carcinoma in this mouse model was preceded by a series of pathological changes known to accompany the primary etiologies of this cancer, including liver damage, inflammation, necrosis, and regeneration. Chronic mTORC1 signaling caused unresolved endoplasmic reticulum stress and defects in autophagy, which contributed to hepatocyte damage and hepatocellular carcinoma development. Therefore, we demonstrate a previously unrecognized role for mTORC1 in carcinogenesis, perhaps representing a key molecular link between cancer risk and environmental factors, such as diet.
Tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC) is a human genetic disorder in which loss of either TSC1 or TSC2 leads to development of hamartoma lesions, which can progress and be life-threatening or fatal. The TSC1/TSC2 protein complex regulates the state of activation of mTORC1. Tsc2+/− mice develop renal cystadenoma lesions which grow progressively. Both bortezomib and metformin have been proposed as potential therapeutics in TSC. We examined the potential benefit of 1 month treatment with bortezomib, and 4 month treatment with metformin in Tsc2+/− mice. Results were compared to vehicle treatment and treatment with the mTORC1 inhibitor rapamycin for 1 month. We used a quantitative tumor volume measurement on stained paraffin sections to assess the effect of these drugs. The median tumor volume per kidney was decreased by 99% in mice treated with rapamycin (p = 0.0004). In contrast, the median tumor volume per kidney was not significantly reduced for either the bortezomib cohort or the metformin cohort. Biochemical studies confirmed that bortezomib and metformin had their expected pharmacodynamic effects. We conclude that neither bortezomib nor metformin has significant benefit in this native Tsc2+/− mouse model, which suggests limited benefit of these compounds in the treatment of TSC hamartomas and related lesions.
The mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) is an evolutionarily conserved serine/threonine protein kinase that regulates numerous cellular processes including cell growth, proliferation, cell cycle, and autophagy. mTOR forms two different multi-protein complexes referred to as mTOR complex 1 (mTORC1) and mTORC2, and each complex exerts distinct functions exclusively. mTORC1 activity is sensitive to the selective inhibitor rapamycin, whereas mTORC2 is resistant. mTORC1 is regulated by many intra- and extra-cellular cues such as growth factors, nutrients, and energy-sensing signals, while mTORC2 senses ribosome maturation and growth factor signaling. This review focuses on current understandings by which mTORC1 pathway senses cellular nutrient availability for its activation.
mTORC1; amino acids; rapamycin; Rag GTPase
Purpose of review
Tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC) is a multiorgan genetic disease caused by mutations in the TSC1 or TSC2 genes. TSC has been recognized for many years as an important cause of severe neurological disease with patients suffering from epilepsy, developmental delay, autism, and psychiatric problems. During the last year there has been enormous advances in basic and translational research pertaining to TSC.
In this review, I discuss the basic science findings that position the TSC1 and TSC2 genes as critical regulators of the mTOR kinase within mTORC1. In addition, I will discuss the development of new animal models, translational data, and recent clinical trials using mTORC1 inhibitors such as rapamycin.
The past few years have seen spectacular advances that have energized TSC related research and challenged existing symptomatic treatments. While it remains to be seen whether use of mTORC1 inhibitors will revolutionize the care of patients with TSC, the application of basic and translational research towards a specific clinical disorder emphasizes the potential and promise of molecular medicine.
tuber; epilepsy; autism; cortical development; progenitor cell; mTOR; mTORC1
Tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC)1 and TSC2 are tumor suppressors that inhibit cell growth and mutation of either gene causes benign tumors in multiple tissues. The TSC1 and TSC2 gene products form a functional complex that has GTPase-activating protein (GAP) activity toward Ras homolog enriched in brain (Rheb) to inhibit mammalian target of rapamycin complex 1 (mTORC1), which is constitutively activated in TSC mutant tumors. We found that cells with mutation in either TSC1 or TSC2 are hypersensitive to endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress and undergo apoptosis. Although the TSC mutant cells show elevated eIF2α phosphorylation, an early ER stress response marker, at both basal and induced conditions, induction of other ER stress response markers, including ATF4, ATF6 and C/EBP homologous protein (CHOP), is severely compromised. The defects in ER stress response are restored by raptor knockdown but not by rapamycin treatment in the TSC mutant cells, indicating that a rapamycin-insensitive mTORC function is responsible for the defects in ER stress response. Consistently, activation of Rheb sensitizes cells to ER stress. Our data show an important role of TSC1/TSC2 and Rheb in unfolded protein response and cell survival. We speculate that an important physiological function of the TSC1/2 tumor suppressors is to protect cells from harmful conditions. These observations indicate a potential therapeutic application of using ER stress agents to selectively kill TSC1 or TSC2 mutant cells for TSC treatment.
TSC; mTOR; Rheb; ER stress; apoptosis
The mammalian target of rapamycin complex 1 (mTORC1) is a multiprotein signaling complex regulated by oncogenes and tumor suppressors. Outputs downstream of mTORC1 include ribosomal protein S6 kinase 1 (S6K1), eukaryotic translation initiation factor 4E (eIF4E), and autophagy, and their modulation leads to changes in cell growth, proliferation, and metabolism. Rapamycin, an allosteric mTORC1 inhibitor, does not antagonize equally these outputs, but the reason for this is unknown. Here, we show that the ability of rapamycin to activate autophagy in different cell lines correlates with mTORC1 stability. Rapamycin exposure destabilizes mTORC1, but in cell lines where autophagy is drug insensitive, higher levels of mTOR-bound raptor are detected than in cells where rapamycin stimulates autophagy. Using small interfering RNA (siRNA), we find that knockdown of raptor relieves autophagy and the eIF4E effector pathway from rapamycin resistance. Importantly, nonefficacious concentrations of an ATP-competitive mTOR inhibitor can be combined with rapamycin to synergistically inhibit mTORC1 and activate autophagy but leave mTORC2 signaling intact. These data suggest that partial inhibition of mTORC1 by rapamycin can be overcome using combination strategies and offer a therapeutic avenue to achieve complete and selective inhibition of mTORC1.