Amino acids and mTOR mediate distinct metabolic checkpoints in mammalian G1 cell cycle

PLoS One. 2013 Aug 19;8(8):e74157. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0074157. eCollection 2013.


Objective: In multicellular organisms, cell division is regulated by growth factors (GFs). In the absence of GFs, cells exit the cell cycle at a site in G1 referred to as the restriction point (R) and enter a state of quiescence known as G0. Additionally, nutrient availability impacts on G1 cell cycle progression. While there is a vast literature on G1 cell cycle progression, confusion remains - especially with regard to the temporal location of R relative to nutrient-mediated checkpoints. In this report, we have investigated the relationship between R and a series of metabolic cell cycle checkpoints that regulate passage into S-phase.

Methods: We used double-block experiments to order G1 checkpoints that monitor the presence of GFs, essential amino acids (EEAs), the conditionally essential amino acid glutamine, and inhibition of mTOR. Cell cycle progression was monitored by uptake of [(3)H]-thymidine and flow cytometry, and analysis of cell cycle regulatory proteins was by Western-blot.

Results: We report here that the GF-mediated R can be temporally distinguished from a series of late G1 metabolic checkpoints mediated by EAAs, glutamine, and mTOR - the mammalian/mechanistic target of rapamycin. R is clearly upstream from an EAA checkpoint, which is upstream from a glutamine checkpoint. mTOR is downstream from both the amino acid checkpoints, close to S-phase. Significantly, in addition to GF autonomy, we find human cancer cells also have dysregulated metabolic checkpoints.

Conclusion: The data provided here are consistent with a GF-dependent mid-G1 R where cells determine whether it is appropriate to divide, followed by a series of late-G1 metabolic checkpoints mediated by amino acids and mTOR where cells determine whether they have sufficient nutrients to accomplish the task. Since mTOR inhibition arrests cells the latest in G1, it is likely the final arbiter for nutrient sufficiency prior to committing to replicating the genome.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acids / pharmacology*
  • Animals
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • G1 Phase Cell Cycle Checkpoints / drug effects*
  • Humans
  • Intercellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins / pharmacology
  • Mammals / metabolism*
  • Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Phosphorylation / drug effects
  • Resting Phase, Cell Cycle / drug effects
  • Sirolimus / pharmacology
  • TOR Serine-Threonine Kinases / antagonists & inhibitors
  • TOR Serine-Threonine Kinases / metabolism*
  • Time Factors


  • Amino Acids
  • Intercellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins
  • MTOR protein, human
  • TOR Serine-Threonine Kinases
  • Sirolimus