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Cell Death Differ. 2011 Jan;18(1):133-44. doi: 10.1038/cdd.2010.82. Epub 2010 Jul 9.

The TSC1 and TSC2 tumor suppressors are required for proper ER stress response and protect cells from ER stress-induced apoptosis.

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Department of Pharmacology and Moores Cancer Center, University of California at San Diego, La Jolla, CA 92093, USA.


Tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC)1 and TSC2 are tumor suppressors that inhibit cell growth and mutation of either gene causes benign tumors in multiple tissues. The TSC1 and TSC2 gene products form a functional complex that has GTPase-activating protein (GAP) activity toward Ras homolog enriched in brain (Rheb) to inhibit mammalian target of rapamycin complex 1 (mTORC1), which is constitutively activated in TSC mutant tumors. We found that cells with mutation in either TSC1 or TSC2 are hypersensitive to endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress and undergo apoptosis. Although the TSC mutant cells show elevated eIF2α phosphorylation, an early ER stress response marker, at both basal and induced conditions, induction of other ER stress response markers, including ATF4, ATF6 and C/EBP homologous protein (CHOP), is severely compromised. The defects in ER stress response are restored by raptor knockdown but not by rapamycin treatment in the TSC mutant cells, indicating that a rapamycin-insensitive mTORC function is responsible for the defects in ER stress response. Consistently, activation of Rheb sensitizes cells to ER stress. Our data show an important role of TSC1/TSC2 and Rheb in unfolded protein response and cell survival. We speculate that an important physiological function of the TSC1/2 tumor suppressors is to protect cells from harmful conditions. These observations indicate a potential therapeutic application of using ER stress agents to selectively kill TSC1 or TSC2 mutant cells for TSC treatment.

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