TOR complex 1 (TORC1), an oligomer of the mTOR (mammalian target of rapamycin) protein kinase, its substrate binding subunit raptor, and the polypeptide Lst8/GbetaL, controls cell growth in all eukaryotes in response to nutrient availability and in metazoans to insulin and growth factors, energy status, and stress conditions. This review focuses on the biochemical mechanisms that regulate mTORC1 kinase activity, with special emphasis on mTORC1 regulation by amino acids. The dominant positive regulator of mTORC1 is the GTP-charged form of the ras-like GTPase Rheb. Insulin, growth factors, and a variety of cellular stressors regulate mTORC1 by controlling Rheb GTP charging through modulating the activity of the tuberous sclerosis complex, the Rheb GTPase activating protein. In contrast, amino acids, especially leucine, regulate mTORC1 by controlling the ability of Rheb-GTP to activate mTORC1. Rheb binds directly to mTOR, an interaction that appears to be essential for mTORC1 activation. In addition, Rheb-GTP stimulates phospholipase D1 to generate phosphatidic acid, a positive effector of mTORC1 activation, and binds to the mTOR inhibitor FKBP38, to displace it from mTOR. The contribution of Rheb's regulation of PL-D1 and FKBP38 to mTORC1 activation, relative to Rheb's direct binding to mTOR, remains to be fully defined. The rag GTPases, functioning as obligatory heterodimers, are also required for amino acid regulation of mTORC1. As with amino acid deficiency, however, the inhibitory effect of rag depletion on mTORC1 can be overcome by Rheb overexpression, whereas Rheb depletion obviates rag's ability to activate mTORC1. The rag heterodimer interacts directly with mTORC1 and may direct mTORC1 to the Rheb-containing vesicular compartment in response to amino acid sufficiency, enabling Rheb-GTP activation of mTORC1. The type III phosphatidylinositol kinase also participates in amino acid-dependent mTORC1 activation, although the site of action of its product, 3'OH-phosphatidylinositol, in this process is unclear.