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1.  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.
doi:10.1158/1541-7786.MCR-13-0258-T
PMCID: PMC4030750  PMID: 24296756
2.  Folliculin regulates cell–cell adhesion, AMPK, and mTORC1 in a cell‐type‐specific manner in lung‐derived cells 
Physiological Reports  2014;2(8):e12107.
Abstract
Germline loss‐of‐function BHD mutations cause cystic lung disease and hereditary pneumothorax, yet little is known about the impact of BHD mutations in the lung. Folliculin (FLCN), the product of the Birt–Hogg–Dube (BHD) gene, has been linked to altered cell–cell adhesion and to the AMPK and mTORC1 signaling pathways. We found that downregulation of FLCN in human bronchial epithelial (HBE) cells decreased the phosphorylation of ACC, a marker of AMPK activation, while downregulation of FLCN in small airway epithelial (SAEC) cells increased the activity of phospho‐S6, a marker of mTORC1 activation, highlighting the cell type–dependent functions of FLCN. Cell–cell adhesion forces were significantly increased in FLCN‐deficient HBE cells, consistent with prior findings in FLCN‐deficient human kidney‐derived cells. To determine how these altered cell–cell adhesion forces impact the lung, we exposed mice with heterozygous inactivation of Bhd (similarly to humans with germline inactivation of one BHD allele) to mechanical ventilation at high tidal volumes. Bhd+/− mice exhibited a trend (P = 0.08) toward increased elastance after 6 h of ventilation at 24 cc/kg. Our results indicate that FLCN regulates the AMPK and mTORC1 pathways and cell–cell adhesion in a cell type–dependent manner. FLCN deficiency may impact the physiologic response to inflation‐induced mechanical stress, but further investigation is required. We hypothesize that FLCN‐dependent effects on signaling and cellular adhesion contribute to the pathogenesis of cystic lung disease in BHD patients.
We found that downregulation of FLCN in human bronchial epithelial (HBE) cells decreased the phosphorylation of ACC, a marker of AMPK activation, while downregulation of FLCN in small airway epithelial (SAEC) cells increased the activity of phospho‐S6, a marker of mTORC1 activation, highlighting the cell type–dependent functions of FLCN. Cell–cell adhesion forces were significantly increased in FLCN‐deficient HBE cells, consistent with prior findings in FLCN‐deficient human kidney‐derived cells. To determine how these altered cell–cell adhesion forces impact the lung, we exposed mice with heterozygous inactivation of Bhd (similarly to humans with germline inactivation of one BHD allele) to mechanical ventilation at high tidal volumes. Bhd+/− mice exhibited a trend (P = 0.08) toward increased elastance after 6 h of ventilation at 24 cc/kg.
doi:10.14814/phy2.12107
PMCID: PMC4246594  PMID: 25121506
AMPK; BHD; Cell–cell adhesion; folliculin; mTOR; pneumothorax
3.  Estradiol and mTORC2 cooperate to enhance prostaglandin biosynthesis and tumorigenesis in TSC2-deficient LAM cells 
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.
doi:10.1084/jem.20131080
PMCID: PMC3892971  PMID: 24395886
4.  Faslodex Inhibits Estradiol-Induced Extracellular Matrix Dynamics and Lung Metastasis in a Model of Lymphangioleiomyomatosis 
Lymphangioleiomyomatosis (LAM) is a destructive lung disease primarily affecting women. Genetic studies indicate that LAM cells carry inactivating tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC)–2 mutations, and metastasize to the lung. We previously discovered that estradiol increases the metastasis of TSC2-deficient cells in mice carrying xenograft tumors. Here, we investigate the molecular basis underlying the estradiol-induced lung metastasis of TSC2-deficient cells, and test the efficacy of Faslodex (an estrogen receptor antagonist) in a preclinical model of LAM. We used a xenograft tumor model in which estradiol induces the lung metastasis of TSC2-deficient cells. We analyzed the impact of Faslodex on tumor size, the extracellular matrix organization, the expression of matrix metalloproteinase (MMP)–2, and lung metastasis. We also examined the effects of estradiol and Faslodex on MMP2 expression and activity in tuberin-deficient cells in vitro. Estradiol resulted in a marked reduction of Type IV collagen deposition in xenograft tumors, associated with 2-fold greater MMP2 concentrations compared with placebo-treated mice. Faslodex normalized the Type IV collagen changes in xenograft tumors, enhanced the survival of the mice, and completely blocked lung metastases. In vitro, estradiol enhanced MMP2 transcripts, protein accumulation, and activity. These estradiol-induced changes in MMP2 were blocked by Faslodex. In TSC2-deficient cells, estradiol increased MMP2 concentrations in vitro and in vivo, and induced extracellular matrix remodeling. Faslodex inhibits the estradiol-induced lung metastasis of TSC2-deficient cells. Targeting estrogen receptors with Faslodex may be of efficacy in the treatment of LAM.
doi:10.1165/rcmb.2012-0476OC
PMCID: PMC3727883  PMID: 23526212
tuberin; estrogen receptor antagonist; matrix metalloproteinase; extracellular matrix
5.  The mTORC1 pathway stimulates glutamine metabolism and cell proliferation by repressing SIRT4 
Cell  2013;153(4):840-854.
Summary
Proliferating mammalian cells use glutamine as a source of nitrogen and as a key anaplerotic source to provide metabolites to the tricarboxylic acid cycle (TCA) for biosynthesis. Recently, mTORC1 activation has been correlated with increased nutrient uptake and metabolism, but no molecular connection to glutaminolysis has been reported. Here, we show that mTORC1 promotes glutamine anaplerosis by activating glutamate dehydrogenase (GDH). This regulation requires transcriptional repression of SIRT4, the mitochondrial-localized sirtuin that inhibits GDH. Mechanistically, mTORC1 represses SIRT4 by promoting the proteasome-mediated destabilization of cAMP response element binding-2 (CREB2). Thus, a relationship between mTORC1, SIRT4 and cancer is suggested by our findings. Indeed, SIRT4 expression is reduced in human cancer, and its overexpression reduces cell proliferation, transformation and tumor development. Finally, our data indicate that targeting nutrient metabolism in energy-addicted cancers with high mTORC1 signaling may be an effective therapeutic approach.
doi:10.1016/j.cell.2013.04.023
PMCID: PMC3684628  PMID: 23663782
6.  Autophagy 
Autophagy  2011;7(11):1400-1401.
Mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) complex 1 (mTORC1), which is activated in tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC) and lymphangioleiomyomatosis (LAM), is a master regulator of cell growth, cellular metabolism and autophagy. Treatment of TSC and LAM patients with mTORC1 inhibitors partially decreases the size of brain and kidney tumors, and stabilizes pulmonary function. However, the tumors regrow and lung function continues to decline when treatment is discontinued. We hypothesized that dysregulation of autophagy plays a critical role in the pathogenesis of tumors with mTORC1 hyperactivation and in their response to mTORC1-targeted therapy. We found that cells lacking TSC2 have low levels of autophagy under basal and cellular stress conditions. Using genetic and pharmacological approaches, we discovered that the survival of Tsc2-deficient tumor cells is dependent on autophagy induction. Thus, autophagy inhibitors may have therapeutic potential in TSC and LAM, either as single agent therapy or in combination with mTORC1 inhibitors.
doi:10.4161/auto.7.11.17652
PMCID: PMC3242802  PMID: 21997371
autophagy; p62/sequestosome 1; tuberin; sirolimus; mTOR; chloroquine; tuberous sclerosis complex; lymphangioleiomyomatosis; metabolism
7.  Mammalian Target of Rapamycin Signaling and Autophagy 
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.
doi:10.1513/pats.200909-104JS
PMCID: PMC3137149  PMID: 20160148
tuberin; rapamycin; chloroquine; Rheb; tuberous sclerosis

Results 1-7 (7)