Ageing can be defined as the gradual deterioration of physiological functions, increasing the incidence of age-related disorders and the probability of death. Therefore, the term ageing not only reflects the lifespan of an organism but also refers to progressive functional impairment and disease. The nutrient-sensing kinase mTOR (mammalian target of rapamycin) is a major determinant of ageing. mTOR promotes cell growth and controls central metabolic pathways including protein biosynthesis, autophagy and glucose and lipid homoeostasis. The concept that mTOR has a crucial role in ageing is supported by numerous reports on the lifespan-prolonging effects of the mTOR inhibitor rapamycin in invertebrate and vertebrate model organisms. Dietary restriction increases lifespan and delays ageing phenotypes as well and mTOR has been assigned a major role in this process. This may suggest a causal relationship between the lifespan of an organism and its metabolic phenotype. More than 25 years after mTOR's discovery, a wealth of metabolic and ageing-related effects have been reported. In this review, we cover the current view on the contribution of the different elements of the mTOR signalling network to lifespan and age-related metabolic impairment. We specifically focus on distinct roles of isoforms and splice variants across the mTOR network. The comprehensive analysis of mouse knockout studies targeting these variants does not support a tight correlation between lifespan prolongation and improved metabolic phenotypes and questions the strict causal relationship between them.
Keywords: ageing; isoforms; mTOR; metabolism; splice variants.
© 2017 The Author(s). Published by Portland Press Limited on behalf of the Biochemical Society.