New Inhibitors of the PI3K-Akt-mTOR Pathway: Insights into mTOR Signaling from a New Generation of Tor Kinase Domain Inhibitors (TORKinibs)

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Abstract

mTOR (mammalian Target of Rapamycin) is the hub of the phosphoinositide 3-Kinase (PI3-K)→Akt→mTOR pathway, which is one of the most commonly mutated pathways in cancer. PI3-Ks and mTOR are related kinases which share an evolutionarily related kinase domain, although the former is a lipid kinase and the latter is a protein kinase. As a result of their similar ATP sites, the prototypical PI3-K inhibitors LY294002 and wortmannin inhibit both kinases, although the compounds have been primarily thought of as inhibitors of PI3-Ks. The widespread use of these reagents to understand PI3-K signaling and the likelihood that many of their effects are confounded by dual inhibition of PI3-K and mTOR make it essential to develop selective mTOR inhibitors in part to understand the unique cellular effects of inhibition of this key downstream component in the growth factor pathway. Rapamycin has historically provided a means for selective mTOR inhibition, yet it is not a typical ATP competitive inhibitor, making its effects difficult to reconcile with LY294002 and wortmannin. Several groups have recently reported pharmacological agents which inhibit mTOR but not PI3-K, providing a new pharmacological approach to selective mTOR inhibition. The TOR kinase domain inhibitors of mTOR have been termed TORKinibs to distinguish their mode of action from rapamycin and its analogs (rapalogs). These inhibitors bind to the ATP binding site of the kinase domain of mTOR and as a result inhibit both mTOR complexes, TORC1 (rapamycin sensitive) and TORC2 (rapamycin resistant). These molecules have allowed a reinvestigation of mTOR and in particular a reinvestigation of the mechanistic basis for incomplete proliferative arrest of cells by Rapamycin. A consensus has quickly emerged from the study of various TORKinibs that Rapamycin is ineffective at blocking cell proliferation because it only partially inhibits the activity of mTORC1. The profound anti-proliferative effect of TORKinibs suggests that as the molecules enter the clinic they may be successful in the treatment of cancers where rapamycin has failed.