The mechanism by which the drug rapamycin inhibits the mechanistic target of rapamycin (mTOR) is of intense interest because of its likely relevance in cancer biology, aging, and other age-related diseases. While rapamycin acutely and directly inhibits mTORC1, only chronic administration of rapamycin can inhibit mTORC2 in some, but not all, cell lines or tissues. The mechanism leading to cell specificity of mTORC2 inhibition by rapamycin is not understood and is especially important because many of the negative metabolic side effects of rapamycin, reported in mouse studies and human clinical trials, have been attributed recently to mTORC2 inhibition. Here, we identify the expression level of different FK506-binding proteins (FKBPs), primarily FKBP12 and FKBP51, as the key determinants for rapamycin-mediated inhibition of mTORC2. In support, enforced reduction of FKBP12 completely converts a cell line that is sensitive to mTORC2 inhibition to an insensitive cell line, and increased expression can enhance mTORC2 inhibition. Further reduction of FKBP12 in cell lines with already low FKBP12 levels completely blocks mTORC1 inhibition by rapamycin, indicating that relative FKBP12 levels are critical for both mTORC1 and mTORC2 inhibition, but at different levels. In contrast, reduction of FKBP51 renders cells more sensitive to mTORC2 inhibition. Our findings reveal that the expression of FKBP12 and FKBP51 is the rate limiting factor that determines the responsiveness of a cell line or tissue to rapamycin. These findings have implications for treating specific diseases, including neurodegeneration and cancer, as well as targeting aging in general.
Keywords: FKBP; aging; mTOR; rapamycin.
© 2015 The Authors. Aging Cell published by the Anatomical Society and John Wiley & Sons Ltd.