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Cell Cycle. 2009 Apr 1;8(7):1026-9. Epub 2009 Apr 2.

Targeting mTOR with rapamycin: one dose does not fit all.

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  • 1Department of Biological Sciences, Hunter College of the City University of New York, New York, NY 10065, USA.


A puzzling aspect of rapamycin-based therapeutic strategies is the wide disparity in the doses needed to suppress mTOR under different circumstances. A recent study revealing mechanistically how rapamycin suppresses mTOR provides two explanations for the differential sensitivities to rapamycin. First, mTOR exists as two functionally distinct complexes (mTORC1 and mTORC2), and while rapamycin suppresses both, it does so at very different concentrations. Whereas mTORC1 is suppressed by concentrations of rapamycin in the low nM range, mTORC2 generally requires low muM concentrations. Second, the efficacy of rapamycin is dependent on the level of phosphatidic acid (PA), which is required for the assembly of both mTORC1 and mTORC2 complexes. Rapamycin interacts with mTOR in a manner that is competitive with PA. Therefore, elevated levels of PA, which is common in cancer cells, increases the level of rapamycin needed to suppress both mTORC1 and mTORC2. A practical outcome of the recent study is that if PA levels are suppressed, mTORC2 becomes sensitive to concentrations of rapamycin that can be achieved clinically. Since mTORC2 is likely more critical for survival signals in cancer cells, the recent findings suggest new strategies for enhancing the efficacy of rapamycin-based therapeutic approaches in cancer cells.

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