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Autophagy. 2008 May;4(4):542-5. Epub 2008 Apr 7.

Amelioration of protein misfolding disease by rapamycin: translation or autophagy?

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Southampton Neuroscience Group, School of Biological Sciences, Southampton, UK.


Rapamycin is an inhibitor of mTOR, a key component of the mTORC1 complex that controls the growth and survival of cells in response to growth factors, nutrients, energy balance and stresses. The downstream targets of mTORC1 include ribosome biogenesis, transcription, translation and macroautophagy. Recently it was proposed that rapamycin and its derivatives enhance the clearance (and/or reduce the accumulation) of mutant intracellular proteins causing proteinopathies such as tau, alpha-synuclein, ataxin-3, and full-length or fragments of huntingtin containing a polyglutamine (polyQ) expansion, by upregulating macroautophagy. We tested this proposal directly using macroautophagy-deficient fibroblasts. We found that rapamycin inhibits the aggregation of a fragment of huntingtin (exon 1) containing 97 polyQs similarly in macroautophagy-proficient (Atg5(+/+)) and macroautophagy-deficient (Atg5(-/-)) cells. These data demonstrate that autophagy is not the only mechanism by which rapamycin can alleviate the accumulation of misfolded proteins. Our data suggest that rapamycin inhibits mutant huntingtin fragment accumulation due to inhibition of protein synthesis. A model illustrates how a modest reduction in polyQ synthesis can lead to a long-lasting reduction in polyQ aggregation. We propose that several mechanisms exist by which rapamycin reduces the accumulation and potential toxicity of misfolded proteins in diseases caused by protein misfolding and aggregation.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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