Mammalian target of rapamycin complex 1 (mTORC1) controls growth and survival in response to metabolic cues. Oxidative stress affects mTORC1 via inhibitory and stimulatory inputs. Whereas downregulation of TSC1-TSC2 activates mTORC1 upon oxidative stress, the molecular mechanism of mTORC1 inhibition remains unknown. Here, we identify astrin as an essential negative mTORC1 regulator in the cellular stress response. Upon stress, astrin inhibits mTORC1 association and recruits the mTORC1 component raptor to stress granules (SGs), thereby preventing mTORC1-hyperactivation-induced apoptosis. In turn, balanced mTORC1 activity enables expression of stress factors. By identifying astrin as a direct molecular link between mTORC1, SG assembly, and the stress response, we establish a unifying model of mTORC1 inhibition and activation upon stress. Importantly, we show that in cancer cells, apoptosis suppression during stress depends on astrin. Being frequently upregulated in tumors, astrin is a potential clinically relevant target to sensitize tumors to apoptosis.
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