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.
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.
Mammalian target of rapamycin complex 1 (mTORC1) is a protein kinase that relays nutrient availability signals to control numerous cellular functions including autophagy, a process of cellular self-eating activated by nutrient depletion. Addressing the therapeutic potential of modulating mTORC1 signaling and autophagy in human disease requires active chemicals with pharmacologically desirable properties.
Using an automated cell-based assay, we screened a collection of >3,500 chemicals and identified three approved drugs (perhexiline, niclosamide, amiodarone) and one pharmacological reagent (rottlerin) capable of rapidly increasing autophagosome content. Biochemical assays showed that the four compounds stimulate autophagy and inhibit mTORC1 signaling in cells maintained in nutrient-rich conditions. The compounds did not inhibit mTORC2, which also contains mTOR as a catalytic subunit, suggesting that they do not inhibit mTOR catalytic activity but rather inhibit signaling to mTORC1. mTORC1 inhibition and autophagosome accumulation induced by perhexiline, niclosamide or rottlerin were rapidly reversed upon drug withdrawal whereas amiodarone inhibited mTORC1 essentially irreversibly. TSC2, a negative regulator of mTORC1, was required for inhibition of mTORC1 signaling by rottlerin but not for mTORC1 inhibition by perhexiline, niclosamide and amiodarone. Transient exposure of immortalized mouse embryo fibroblasts to these drugs was not toxic in nutrient-rich conditions but led to rapid cell death by apoptosis in starvation conditions, by a mechanism determined in large part by the tuberous sclerosis complex protein TSC2, an upstream regulator of mTORC1. By contrast, transient exposure to the mTORC1 inhibitor rapamycin caused essentially irreversible mTORC1 inhibition, sustained inhibition of cell growth and no selective cell killing in starvation.
The observation that drugs already approved for human use can reversibly inhibit mTORC1 and stimulate autophagy should greatly facilitate the preclinical and clinical testing of mTORC1 inhibition for indications such as tuberous sclerosis, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Estradiol enhances COX-2 expression and prostaglandin biosynthesis in TSC2-deficient cells via a rapamycin-insensitive, mTORC2-dependent mechanism.
Lymphangioleiomyomatosis (LAM) is a progressive neoplastic disorder that leads to lung destruction and respiratory failure primarily in women. LAM is typically caused by tuberous sclerosis complex 2 (TSC2) mutations resulting in mTORC1 activation in proliferative smooth muscle–like cells in the lung. The female predominance of LAM suggests that estradiol contributes to disease development. Metabolomic profiling identified an estradiol-enhanced prostaglandin biosynthesis signature in Tsc2-deficient (TSC−) cells, both in vitro and in vivo. Estradiol increased the expression of cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2), a rate-limiting enzyme in prostaglandin biosynthesis, which was also increased at baseline in TSC-deficient cells and was not affected by rapamycin treatment. However, both Torin 1 treatment and Rictor knockdown led to reduced COX-2 expression and phospho-Akt-S473. Prostaglandin production was also increased in TSC-deficient cells. In preclinical models, both Celecoxib and aspirin reduced tumor development. LAM patients had significantly higher serum prostaglandin levels than healthy women. 15-epi-lipoxin-A4 was identified in exhaled breath condensate from LAM subjects and was increased by aspirin treatment, indicative of functional COX-2 expression in the LAM airway. In vitro, 15-epi-lipoxin-A4 reduced the proliferation of LAM patient–derived cells in a dose-dependent manner. Targeting COX-2 and prostaglandin pathways may have therapeutic value in LAM and TSC-related diseases, and possibly in other conditions associated with mTOR hyperactivation.
The protein complex of tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC)1 and TSC2 tumor suppressors is a key negative regulator of mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR). Hyperactive mTOR signaling due to the loss-of-function of mutations in either TSC1 or TSC2 gene causes TSC, an autosomal dominant disorder featured with benign tumors in multiple organs. As the ubiquitous second messenger calcium (Ca2+) regulates various cellular processes involved in tumorigenesis, we explored the potential role of mTOR in modulation of cellular Ca2+ homeostasis, and in turn the effect of Ca2+ signaling in TSC-related tumor development. We found that loss of Tsc2 potentiated store-operated Ca2+ entry (SOCE) in an mTOR complex 1 (mTORC1)-dependent way. The endoplasmic reticulum Ca2+ sensor, stromal interaction molecule 1 (STIM1), was upregulated in Tsc2-deficient cells, and was suppressed by mTORC1 inhibitor rapamycin. In addition, SOCE repressed AKT1 phosphorylation. Blocking SOCE either by depleting STIM1 or ectopically expressing dominant-negative Orai1 accelerated TSC-related tumor development, likely because of restored AKT1 activity and enhanced tumor angiogenesis. Our data, therefore, suggest that mTORC1 enhancement of store-operated Ca2+ signaling hinders TSC-related tumor growth through suppression of AKT1 signaling. The augmented SOCE by hyperactive mTORC1-STIM1 cascade may contribute to the benign nature of TSC-related tumors. Application of SOCE agonists could thus be a contraindication for TSC patients. In contrast, SOCE agonists should attenuate mTOR inhibitors-mediated AKT reactivation and consequently potentiate their efficacy in the treatment of the patients with TSC.
TSC; mTORC1; STIM1; calcium; tumorigenesis
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.
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.
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.
TOR (Target of Rapamycin) is a highly conserved protein kinase and a central controller of cell growth. TOR is found in two functionally and structurally distinct multiprotein complexes termed TOR complex 1 (TORC1) and TOR complex 2 (TORC2). In the present study, we developed a two-dimensional liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry (2D LC-MS/MS) based proteomic strategy to identify new mammalian TOR (mTOR) binding proteins. We report the identification of Proline-rich Akt substrate (PRAS40) and the hypothetical protein Q6MZQ0/FLJ14213/CAE45978 as new mTOR binding proteins. PRAS40 binds mTORC1 via Raptor, and is an mTOR phosphorylation substrate. PRAS40 inhibits mTORC1 autophosphorylation and mTORC1 kinase activity toward eIF-4E binding protein (4E-BP) and PRAS40 itself. HeLa cells in which PRAS40 was knocked down were protected against induction of apoptosis by TNFα and cycloheximide. Rapamycin failed to mimic the pro-apoptotic effect of PRAS40, suggesting that PRAS40 mediates apoptosis independently of its inhibitory effect on mTORC1. Q6MZQ0 is structurally similar to proline rich protein 5 (PRR5) and was therefore named PRR5-Like (PRR5L). PRR5L binds specifically to mTORC2, via Rictor and/or SIN1. Unlike other mTORC2 members, PRR5L is not required for mTORC2 integrity or kinase activity, but dissociates from mTORC2 upon knock down of tuberous sclerosis complex 1 (TSC1) and TSC2. Hyperactivation of mTOR by TSC1/2 knock down enhanced apoptosis whereas PRR5L knock down reduced apoptosis. PRR5L knock down reduced apoptosis also in mTORC2 deficient cells. The above suggests that mTORC2-dissociated PRR5L may promote apoptosis when mTOR is hyperactive. Thus, PRAS40 and PRR5L are novel mTOR-associated proteins that control the balance between cell growth and cell death.
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.
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.
REDD1; DDIT4; mTORC1; VHL; RCC; HIF; nucleolus
Tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC) is a hamartoma syndrome in which brain, renal and lung tumors develop and cause both morbidity and death. Loss of either TSC1 or TSC2 in TSC hamartomas leads to activation of mTORC1. Rapamycin and related drugs have been shown to have clinical benefit for these tumors in TSC patients and those with sporadic forms of TSC-related neoplasms. However, lifelong therapy appears to be required, as tumors are not eliminated by this treatment. We examined the potential benefit of MLN0128, a novel potent mTOR ATP-competitive inhibitor, as a therapeutic strategy for renal cystadenomas that develop in A/J Tsc2+/− mice. Rapamycin given by intraperitoneal injection at 3 mg/kg 3 times per week, and MLN0128 given by gavage at 0.75 mg/kg 5 times per week had equivalent effects in suppressing tumor development during a 4 week treatment period, with an approximate 99% reduction in microscopic tumor cell volume. Marked reduction in activation of mTORC1, and blockade of cell growth was seen with both drugs, while only MLN0128 treatment had effects in blocking mTORC2 and 4EBP1 phosphorylation. However, when either drug was discontinued and mice were observed for two additional months, there was dramatic recovery of tumor growth, with extensive proliferation. Hence, long-lasting tumor growth control is not achieved with transient treatment with either drug, and MLN0128 and rapamycin have equivalent therapeutic benefit in this mouse model. Differences in side-effect profiles might make MLN0128 more attractive for treatment of patients with TSC-related tumors, but will require additional study in humans.
TSC; mTOR; INK128; rapamycin; MLN0128
The pace of progress in lymphangioleiomyomatosis (LAM) is remarkable. In the year 2000, TSC2 gene mutations were found in LAM cells; in 2001 the tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC) genes were discovered to regulate cell size in Drosophila via the kinase TOR (target of rapamycin); and in 2008 the results were published of a clinical trial of rapamycin, a specific inhibitor of TOR, in patients with TSC and LAM with renal angiomyolipomas. This interval of just 8 years between a genetic discovery for which the relevant signaling pathway was as yet unknown, to the initiation, completion, and publication of a clinical trial, is an almost unparalleled accomplishment in modern biomedical research. This robust foundation of basic, translational, and clinical research in TOR, TSC, and LAM is now poised to optimize and validate effective therapeutic strategies for LAM. An immediate challenge is to deduce the mechanisms underlying the partial response of renal angiomyolipomas to rapamycin, and thereby guide the design of combinatorial approaches. TOR complex 1 (TORC1), which is known to be active in LAM cells, is a key inhibitor of autophagy. One hypothesis, which will be explored here, is that low levels of autophagy in TSC2-null LAM cells limits their survival under conditions of bioenergetic stress. A corollary of this hypothesis is that rapamycin, by inducing autophagy, promotes the survival of LAM cells, while simultaneously arresting their growth. If this hypothesis proves to be correct, then combining TORC1 inhibition with autophagy inhibition may represent an effective clinical strategy for LAM.
tuberin; rapamycin; chloroquine; Rheb; tuberous sclerosis
What is the central question of this study?
Does tuberous sclerosis complex 1–mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) signalling regulate the synthesis of surfactant proteins A and B and, if so, can this contribute to the postnatal death of Fabp4-Tsc1cKO mice?
What is the main finding and its importance?
Our study reveals a novel mechanism for the regulation of alveolar surfactant proteins. Tuberous sclerosis complex 1–mTOR signalling contributes to the regulation of synthesis of surfactant proteins A and B. Deficiency of tuberous sclerosis complex 1 in alveolar epithelial cells may contribute to the postnatal death of Fabp4-Tsc1cKO mice.
Tuberous sclerosis complex 1 (TSC1) forms a heterodimmer with tuberous sclerosis complex 2, to inhibit signalling by the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) complex 1 (mTORC1). The mTORC1 stimulates cell growth by promoting anabolic cellular processes, such as gene transcription and protein translation, in response to growth factors and nutrient signals. Originally designed to test the role of TSC1 in adipocyte function, mice in which the gene for TSC1 was specifically deleted by the fatty acid binding protein 4 (FABP4)-Cre (Fabp4-Tsc1cKO mice) died prematurely within 48 h after birth. The Fabp4-Tsc1cKO mouse revealed a much smaller phenotype relative to the wild-type littermates. Maternal administration of rapamycin, a classical mTOR inhibitor, significantly increased the survival time of Fabp4-Tsc1cKO mice for up to 23 days. Both macroscopic and microscopic haemorrhages were observed in the lungs of Fabp4-Tsc1cKO mice, while other tissues showed no significant changes. Levels of surfactant proteins A and B demonstrated a significant decrease in the Fabp4-Tsc1cKO mice, which was rescued by maternal injection of rapamycin. Co-localization of FABP4 or TSC1 with surfactant protein B was also detected in neonatal pulmonary tissues. Our study suggests that TSC1–mTORC1 may be critical for the synthesis of surfactant proteins A and B.
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.
ULK1; ULK2; Atg5; raptor; mTOR
Rheb is a small GTPase primarily known for activating mammalian target of rapamycin complex 1 (mTORC1) and promoting cell growth in response to insulin and nutrients (amino acids, glucose). Shortage of glucose activates adenosine 5′-monophosphate-activated protein kinase (AMPK), which induces catabolic processes that produce ATP and suppresses energy-consuming anabolic reactions. As part of the latter response, AMPK activates the TSC1-TSC2 tumor suppressor complex, which in turn inhibits Rheb, thereby reducing mTORC1 activity and consequently suppressing protein synthesis. We recently identified an mTORC1-independent Rheb-to-AMPK feedback signaling loop in Tsc2-null in vitro models of Tuberous Sclerosis Complex (TSC). In addition to activating AMPK, Rheb reduced the nuclear levels of the cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor p27KIP1 (p27). Importantly, Rheb-mediated repression of p27 correlated with activation of Cdk2 and cell proliferation, and with tumor formation by TSC cells. Considering that AMPK was previously reported to regulate stability and subcellular localization of p27, we hypothesize that Rheb regulates p27 in TSC cells by activating AMPK. This article discusses how Rheb-to-AMPK, and p27 signaling may impact on disease progression and treatment of TSC, including sporadic lymphangioleiomyomatosis (S-LAM) and malignancies.
Rheb; AMPK; p27; TSC; LAM; cancer; autophagy
Neurodegenerative disorders affect a significant portion of the world's population leading to either disability or death for almost 30 million individuals worldwide. One novel therapeutic target that may offer promise for multiple disease entities that involve Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, epilepsy, trauma, stroke, and tumors of the nervous system is the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR). mTOR signaling is dependent upon the mTORC1 and mTORC2 complexes that are composed of mTOR and several regulatory proteins including the tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC1, hamartin/ TSC2, tuberin). Through a number of integrated cell signaling pathways that involve those of mTORC1 and mTORC2 as well as more novel signaling tied to cytokines, Wnt, and forkhead, mTOR can foster stem cellular proliferation, tissue repair and longevity, and synaptic growth by modulating mechanisms that foster both apoptosis and autophagy. Yet, mTOR through its proliferative capacity may sometimes be detrimental to central nervous system recovery and even promote tumorigenesis. Further knowledge of mTOR and the critical pathways governed by this serine/threonine protein kinase can bring new light for neurodegeneration and other related diseases that currently require new and robust treatments.
apoptosis; autophagy; mTOR; neurodegeneration; rapamycin; stem cells
Mutations of the tumor suppressor genes tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC)1 and TSC2 cause pulmonary lymphangioleiomyomatosis (LAM) and tuberous sclerosis (TS). Current rapamycin-based therapies for TS and LAM have a predominantly cytostatic effect, and disease progression resumes with therapy cessation. Evidence of RhoA GTPase activation in LAM-derived and human TSC2-null cells suggests that 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-coenzyme A reductase inhibitor statins can be used as potential adjuvant agents. The goal of this study was to determine which statin (simvastatin or atorvastatin) is more effective in suppressing TSC2-null cell growth and signaling. Simvastatin, but not atorvastatin, showed a concentration-dependent (0.5–10 μM) inhibitory effect on mouse TSC2-null and human LAM–derived cell growth. Treatment with 10 μM simvastatin induced dramatic disruption of TSC2-null cell monolayer and cell rounding; in contrast, few changes were observed in cells treated with the same concentration of atorvastatin. Combined treatment of rapamycin with simvastatin but not with atorvastatin showed a synergistic growth-inhibitory effect on TSC2-null cells. Simvastatin, but not atorvastatin, inhibited the activity of prosurvival serine-threonine kinase Akt and induced marked up-regulation of cleaved caspase-3, a marker of cell apoptosis. Simvastatin, but not atorvastatin, also induced concentration-dependent inhibition of p42/p44 Erk and mTORC1. Thus, our data show growth-inhibitory and proapoptotic effects of simvastatin on TSC2-null cells compared with atorvastatin. These findings have translational significance for combinatorial therapeutic strategies of simvastatin to inhibit TSC2-null cell survival in TS and LAM.
TSC; LAM; apoptosis; TSC2; mTOR
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.
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