Selective activation of mTORC1 signaling recapitulates microcephaly, tuberous sclerosis, and neurodegenerative diseases

Cell Rep. 2014 Jun 12;7(5):1626-1639. doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2014.04.048. Epub 2014 May 22.


Mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) has been implicated in human neurological diseases such as tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC), neurodegeneration, and autism. However, little is known about when and how mTOR is involved in the pathogenesis of these diseases, due to a lack of animal models that directly increase mTOR activity. Here, we generated transgenic mice expressing a gain-of-function mutant of mTOR in the forebrain in a temporally controlled manner. Selective activation of mTORC1 in embryonic stages induced cortical atrophy caused by prominent apoptosis of neuronal progenitors, associated with upregulation of HIF-1α. In striking contrast, activation of the mTORC1 pathway in adulthood resulted in cortical hypertrophy with fatal epileptic seizures, recapitulating human TSC. Activated mTORC1 in the adult cortex also promoted rapid accumulation of cytoplasmic inclusions and activation of microglial cells, indicative of progressive neurodegeneration. Our findings demonstrate that mTORC1 plays different roles in developmental and adult stages and contributes to human neurological diseases.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis
  • Hypoxia-Inducible Factor 1, alpha Subunit / genetics
  • Hypoxia-Inducible Factor 1, alpha Subunit / metabolism
  • Mechanistic Target of Rapamycin Complex 1
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Microcephaly / genetics*
  • Microcephaly / metabolism
  • Microcephaly / pathology
  • Microglia / metabolism
  • Multiprotein Complexes / genetics
  • Multiprotein Complexes / metabolism*
  • Neural Stem Cells / metabolism
  • Prosencephalon / cytology
  • Prosencephalon / embryology
  • Prosencephalon / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction
  • TOR Serine-Threonine Kinases / genetics
  • TOR Serine-Threonine Kinases / metabolism*
  • Tuberous Sclerosis / genetics*
  • Tuberous Sclerosis / metabolism
  • Tuberous Sclerosis / pathology
  • Up-Regulation*


  • Hypoxia-Inducible Factor 1, alpha Subunit
  • Multiprotein Complexes
  • TOR Serine-Threonine Kinases
  • Mechanistic Target of Rapamycin Complex 1