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  • mTOR folate sensing links folate availability to trophoblast cell function.

mTOR folate sensing links folate availability to trophoblast cell function.

The Journal of physiology (2017-04-05)
Fredrick J Rosario, Theresa L Powell, Thomas Jansson
ABSTRACT

Folate deficiency during pregnancy is associated with restricted fetal growth, although the underlying mechanisms are poorly understood. Here we show that mechanistic target of rapamycin (mTOR) functions as a folate sensor in primary human trophoblast (PHT) cells. Folate sensing by mTOR in PHT cells involves both mTOR Complex 1 and 2 and requires the proton-coupled folate transporter. We report a previously unknown molecular mechanism by which folate regulates trophoblast cell function. Because mTOR is a positive regulator of placental amino acid transport and mitochondrial function, placental mTOR folate sensing may constitute the mechanistic link between maternal folate status and fetal growth. These findings provide new insight into how folate influences human cell physiology and may have implications for our understanding of how altered folate availability causes diseases such as fetal growth restriction, fetal malformations and cancer. Folate is a water-soluble B vitamin that is essential for cellular methylation reactions and DNA synthesis and repair. Low maternal folate levels in pregnancy are associated with fetal growth restriction, but the underlying mechanisms are poorly understood. Mechanistic target of rapamycin (mTOR) links nutrient availability to cell growth and function by regulating gene expression and protein translation. Here we show that mTOR functions as a folate sensor in primary human trophoblast (PHT) cells. Folate deficiency in PHT cells caused inhibition of mTOR signalling and decreased the activity of key amino acid transporters. Folate sensing by mTOR in PHT cells involves both mTOR Complex 1 and 2 and requires the proton-coupled folate transporter (PCFT, SLC46A1). The involvement of PCFT in mTOR folate sensing is not dependent on its function as a plasma membrane folate transporter. Increasing levels of homocysteine had no effect on PHT mTOR signalling, suggesting that mTOR senses low folate rather than high homocysteine. In addition, we demonstrate that maternal serum folate is positively correlated to placental mTORC1 and mTORC2 signalling activity in human pregnancy. We have identified a previously unknown molecular link between folate availability and cell function involving PCFT and mTOR signalling. We propose that mTOR folate sensing in trophoblast cells matches placental nutrient transport, and therefore fetal growth, to folate availability. These findings may have implications for our understanding of how altered folate availability causes human diseases such as fetal growth restriction, fetal malformations and cancer.

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