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Biochim Biophys Acta. 2007 Jan;1770(1):71-8. Epub 2006 Aug 1.

Effects of rapamycin on cell proliferation and phosphorylation of mTOR and p70(S6K) in HepG2 and HepG2 cells overexpressing constitutively active Akt/PKB.

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  • 1Department of Biochemistry, College of Medicine, 107 Wiggins Road, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, SK, Canada S7N5E5.


Mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) is a serine-threonine kinase that plays an important role in the regulation of cell proliferation and protein synthesis through the activation of its downstream target ribosomal p70 S6 kinase (p70(S6K)). The levels of p-mTOR are regulated by the protein kinase B (Akt/PKB). Therefore, the effects of insulin and rapamycin (an inhibitor of mTOR) on the phosphorylation of mTOR (Ser 2448) and p70(S6K) (Thr 389) as well as on cell proliferation in parental HepG2 cells and HepG2 cells overexpressing constitutively active Akt/PKB (HepG2-CA-Akt/PKB) were studied. Insulin increased the levels of phosphorylated mTOR and p70(S6K) in both the cell lines. Rapamycin treatment partially decreased the phosphorylation of mTOR but completely abolished the phosphorylation of p70(S6K) in the absence as well as presence of insulin in both cell lines. The effect of insulin and rapamycin on the cell proliferation in both cell lines was further studied. In the presence of serum, parental HepG2 cells and HepG2-CA-Akt/PKB showed an increase in cell proliferation until 120 and 168 h respectively. Rapamycin inhibited cell proliferation under all experimental conditions more evident under serum deprived conditions. Parental HepG2 cells showed decline in the cell proliferation after 48 h and the presence of insulin prolonged cell survival until 120 h and this effect were also inhibited by rapamycin under serum deprived conditions. On the contrary, HepG2-CA-Akt/PKB cells continued proliferation until 192 h. The effects of insulin on cell proliferation were more pronounced in parental HepG2 cells as compared to HepG2-CA-Akt/PKB cells. Long term effects of rapamcyin significantly decreased the levels of p-mTOR (Ser 2448) both in the presence and absence of insulin in these cells. A positive correlation between the levels of p-mTOR (Ser2448) and cell proliferation was observed (99% confidence interval, r(2)=0.525, p<0.0001). These results suggest that rapamycin causes a decline in the cell growth through the inhibition of mTOR.

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