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Rapamycin prevents cadmium-induced neuronal cell death via targeting both mTORC1 and mTORC2 pathways

Chong Xu, Chunxiao Liu, Lei Liu, Ruijie Zhang, Hai Zhang, Sujuan Chen, Yan Luo, Long Chen*, Shile Huang*

Cadmium (Cd), a toxic environmental contaminant, contributes to neurodegeneration. Rapamycin, a macrocyclic lactone, has shown preventive effect on Cd-induced neuronal cell 

death. However, the underlying mechanism is not fully understood. Here, we show that rapamycin prevented Cd-induced apoptotic cell death in neuronal cells. Coincidently, 

rapamycin markedly blocked Cd-induced phosphorylation of Akt, S6K1 and 4E-BP1 in the cells. Expression of a rapamycin-resistant and kinase-active mTOR (S2035T, mTOR-T), but not a rapamycin-resistant and kinase-dead mTOR (S2035T/D2357E, mTOR-TE), conferred resistance to rapamycin inhibition of Cd-induced cell death, implying that the preventive effect of rapamycin on Cd-induced neurotoxicity is mTOR kinase activity-dependent. It appeared that both mTORC1 and mTORC2 were involved in the inhibitory activity of rapamycin, as silencing raptor, rictor or raptor/rictor enhanced rapamycin’s blockage of Cd-induced cell death. Furthermore, downregulation of S6K1, ectopic expression of constitutively 

hypophosphorylated 4E-BP1 or dominant negative Akt, or co-treatment with Akt inhibitor also potentiated the rapamycin’s inhibitory effect. The findings indicate that rapamycin prevents Cd-induced neuronal cell death via suppressing both mTORC1 and mTORC2 pathways. Our results highlight that rapamycin may be exploited for the prevention of Cd-induced neurodegenerative disorders.