The mTORC1 inhibitors, rapamycin and its analogs, are known to show only modest antitumor activity in clinic, but the underlying mechanisms remain largely elusive. Here, we found that activated AKT signaling is associated with rapamycin resistance in breast and colon cancers by sustained phosphorylation of the translational repressor 4E-BP1. Treatment of tumor cells with rapamycin or the AKT inhibitor MK2206 showed a limited activity in inhibiting 4E-BP1 phosphorylation, cap-dependent translation, cell growth and motility. However, treatment with both drugs resulted in profound effects in vitro and in vivo. Mechanistic investigation demonstrated that the combination treatment was required to effectively inhibit PRAS40 phosphorylation on both Ser183 and Thr246 mediated by mTORC1 and AKT respectively, and with the combined treatment, dephosphorylated PRAS40 binding to the raptor/mTOR complex was enhanced, leading to dramatic repression of mTORC1-regulated 4E-BP1 phosphorylation and translation. Knockdown of PRAS40 or 4E-BP1 expression markedly reduced the dependence of tumor cells on AKT/mTORC1 signaling for translation and survival. Together, these findings reveal a critical role of PRAS40 as an integrator of mTORC1 and AKT signaling for 4E-BP1-mediated translational regulation of tumor cell growth and motility, and highlight PRAS40 phosphorylation as a potential biomarker to evaluate the therapeutic response to mTOR/AKT inhibitors.

Document Type


Publication Date


Notes/Citation Information

Published in Oncotarget, v. 6, no 16, p. 13962-13977.

Copyright @ 2008-2016 Impact Journals, LLC. All rights reserved.

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)


Funding Information

This work was supported by grants from NIH R01CA175105 and ACS IRG85-001-22 to Q.-B. She and a grant from Guangdong Province Universities and Colleges Pearl River Scholar funded scheme to S. Liu.

3920-52081-1-SP.pdf (645 kB)
Supplementary Information

Included in

Oncology Commons