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J Biol Chem. 2012 Jan 20;287(4):2836-42. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M111.300749. Epub 2011 Dec 1.

Rapamycin and glucose-target of rapamycin (TOR) protein signaling in plants.

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Department of Molecular Biology and Center for Computational and Integrative Biology, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts 02114, USA.


Target of rapamycin (TOR) kinase is an evolutionarily conserved master regulator that integrates energy, nutrients, growth factors, and stress signals to promote survival and growth in all eukaryotes. The reported land plant resistance to rapamycin and the embryo lethality of the Arabidopsis tor mutants have hindered functional dissection of TOR signaling in plants. We developed sensitive cellular and seedling assays to monitor endogenous Arabidopsis TOR activity based on its conserved S6 kinase (S6K) phosphorylation. Surprisingly, rapamycin effectively inhibits Arabidopsis TOR-S6K1 signaling and retards glucose-mediated root and leaf growth, mimicking estradiol-inducible tor mutants. Rapamycin inhibition is relieved in transgenic plants deficient in Arabidopsis FK506-binding protein 12 (FKP12), whereas FKP12 overexpression dramatically enhances rapamycin sensitivity. The role of Arabidopsis FKP12 is highly specific as overexpression of seven closely related FKP proteins fails to increase rapamycin sensitivity. Rapamycin exerts TOR inhibition by inducing direct interaction between the TOR-FRB (FKP-rapamycin binding) domain and FKP12 in plant cells. We suggest that variable endogenous FKP12 protein levels may underlie the molecular explanation for longstanding enigmatic observations on inconsistent rapamycin resistance in plants and in various mammalian cell lines or diverse animal cell types. Integrative analyses with rapamycin and conditional tor and fkp12 mutants also reveal a central role of glucose-TOR signaling in root hair formation. Our studies demonstrate the power of chemical genetic approaches in the discovery of previously unknown and pivotal functions of glucose-TOR signaling in governing the growth of cotyledons, true leaves, petioles, and primary and secondary roots and root hairs.

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