MTORC1-driven tumor cells are highly sensitive to therapeutic targeting by antagonists of oxidative stress
TOR Serine-Threonine Kinases
mTORC1 is a central signaling node in controlling cell growth, proliferation, and metabolism that is aberrantly activated in cancers and certain cancer-associated genetic disorders, such as tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC) and sporadic lymphangioleiomyomatosis. However, while mTORC1-inhibitory compounds (rapamycin and rapalogs) attracted interest as candidate therapeutics, clinical trials have not replicated the promising findings in preclinical models, perhaps because these compounds tend to limit cell proliferation without inducing cell death. In seeking to address this issue, we performed a high-throughput screen for small molecules that could heighten the cytotoxicity of mTORC1 inhibitors. Here we report the discovery that combining inhibitors of mTORC1 and glutamate cysteine ligase (GCLC) can selectively and efficiently trigger apoptosis in Tsc2-deficient cells but not wild-type cells. Mechanistic investigations revealed that coinhibition of mTORC1 and GCLC decreased the level of the intracellular thiol antioxidant glutathione (GSH), thereby increasing levels of reactive oxygen species, which we determined to mediate cell death in Tsc2-deficient cells. Our findings offer preclinical proof of concept for a strategy to selectively increase the cytotoxicity of mTORC1 inhibitors as a therapy to eradicate tumor cells marked by high mTORC1 signaling, based on cotargeting a GSH-controlled oxidative stress pathway. Cancer Res; 76(16); 4816-27. ©2016 AACR.
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