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Oncogene. 2001 Sep 27;20(43):6172-80.

Damaged microtubules can inactivate BCL-2 by means of the mTOR kinase.

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Department of Pharmacology, University of Milan, Via Vanvitelli 32, Milan 20129, Italy.


Rapamycin, a specific inhibitor of the serine/threonine mTOR kinase, markedly inhibited both cell growth and apoptosis in human B-cell lines. Besides arresting cells in G(1) by increasing p27(kip1), rapamycin tripled the cellular level of the BCL-2 protein. The activity was dose-dependent and specific for the p27(kip1) and BCL-2 proteins. Rapamycin did not affect bcl-2 mRNA although it increased cellular BCL-2 concentration by inhibiting phosphorylation, a mechanism initiating the decay process. To add new insight, we combined rapamycin treatment with treatment by taxol, which, by damaging microtubules, can phosphorylate BCL-2 and activate apoptosis. It was found that the mTOR kinase was activated in cells treated with taxol or with nocodazole although it was inhibited in cells pre-treated with rapamycin. BCL-2 phosphorylation, apoptosis and hyperdiploidy were also inhibited by rapamycin. In contrast, taxol-induced microtubule stabilization or metaphase synchronization were not inhibited by rapamycin. Taken together, these findings indicate that mTOR belongs to the enzymatic cascade that, starting from damaged microtubules, phosphorylates BCL-2. By regulating apoptosis, in addition to the control of a multitude of growth-related pathways, mTOR plays a nodal role in signaling G(1) and G(2)-M events.

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