Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

Loss of mTOR complex 1 induces developmental blockage in early T-lymphopoiesis and eradicates T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia cells.

PMID 24567410


mTOR is an evolutionarily conserved kinase that plays a critical role in sensing and responding to environmental determinants. Recent studies have shown that fine-tuning of the activity of mTOR complexes contributes to organogenesis and tumorigenesis. Although rapamycin, an allosteric mTOR inhibitor, is an effective immunosuppressant, the precise roles of mTOR complexes in early T-cell development remain unclear. Here we show that mTORC1 plays a critical role in the development of both early T-cell progenitors and leukemia. Deletion of Raptor, an essential component of mTORC1, produced defects in the earliest development of T-cell progenitors in vivo and in vitro. Deficiency of Raptor resulted in cell cycle abnormalities in early T-cell progenitors that were associated with instability of the Cyclin D2/D3-CDK6 complexes; deficiency of Rictor, an mTORC2 component, did not have the same effect, indicating that mTORC1 and -2 control T-cell development in different ways. In a model of myeloproliferative neoplasm and T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (T-ALL) evoked by Kras activation, Raptor deficiency dramatically inhibited the cell cycle in oncogenic Kras-expressing T-cell progenitors, but not myeloid progenitors, and specifically prevented the development of T-ALL. Although rapamycin treatment significantly prolonged the survival of recipient mice bearing T-ALL cells, rapamycin-insensitive leukemia cells continued to propagate in vivo. In contrast, Raptor deficiency in the T-ALL model resulted in cell cycle arrest and efficient eradication of leukemia. Thus, understanding the cell-context-dependent role of mTORC1 illustrates the potential importance of mTOR signals as therapeutic targets.