mTOR activation, lymphangiogenesis, and estrogen-mediated cell survival: the "perfect storm" of pro-metastatic factors in LAM pathogenesis

Lymphat Res Biol. 2010 Mar;8(1):43-9. doi: 10.1089/lrb.2009.0020.


Research interest in lymphangioleiomyomatosis (LAM) has grown dramatically in the past decade, particularly among cancer biologists. There are at least two reasons for this: first, the discovery in the year 2000 that LAM cells carry TSC2 gene mutations, linking LAM with cellular pathways including the PI3K/Akt/mTOR axis, and allowing the Tuberous Sclerosis Complex (TSC)-regulated pathways that are believed to underlie LAM pathogenesis to be studied in cells, yeast, Drosophila, and mice. A second reason for the rising interest in LAM is the discovery that LAM cells can travel to the lung, including repopulating a donor lung after lung transplantation, despite the fact that LAM cells are histologically benign. This "benign metastasis" underpinning suggests that elucidating LAM pathogenesis will unlock a set of fundamental mechanisms that underlie metastatic potential in the context of a cell that has not yet undergone malignant transformation. Here, we will outline the data supporting the metastatic model of LAM, consider the biochemical and cellular mechanisms that may enable LAM cells to metastasize, including both cell autonomous and non-cell autonomous factors, and highlight a mouse model in which estrogen promotes the metastasis and survival of TSC2-deficient cells in a MEK-dependent manner. We propose a multistep model of LAM cell metastasis that highlights multiple opportunities for therapeutic intervention. Taken together, the metastatic behavior of LAM cells and the involvement of tumor-related signaling pathways lead to optimism that cancer-related paradigms for diagnosis, staging, and therapy will lead to therapeutic breakthroughs for women living with LAM.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Estrogens / pharmacology*
  • Humans
  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins / metabolism*
  • Lymphangiogenesis*
  • Lymphangioleiomyomatosis / drug therapy
  • Lymphangioleiomyomatosis / etiology*
  • Lymphangioleiomyomatosis / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Neoplasm Metastasis
  • Protein Serine-Threonine Kinases / metabolism*
  • TOR Serine-Threonine Kinases
  • Tuberous Sclerosis
  • Tuberous Sclerosis Complex 2 Protein
  • Tumor Suppressor Proteins / metabolism


  • Estrogens
  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins
  • TSC2 protein, human
  • Tsc2 protein, mouse
  • Tuberous Sclerosis Complex 2 Protein
  • Tumor Suppressor Proteins
  • MTOR protein, human
  • mTOR protein, mouse
  • Protein Serine-Threonine Kinases
  • TOR Serine-Threonine Kinases