mTORC1 and mTORC2 regulate EMT, motility, and metastasis of colorectal cancer via RhoA and Rac1 signaling pathways

Pat Gulhati, Kanika A. Bowen, Jianyu Liu, Payton D. Stevens, Piotr G. Rychahou, Min Chen, Eun Y. Lee, Heidi L. Weiss, Kathleen L. O'Connor, Tianyan Gao, B. Mark Evers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

480 Scopus citations


Activation of phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K)/Akt signaling is associated with growth and progression of colorectal cancer (CRC). We have previously shown that the mTOR kinase, a downstream effector of PI3K/Akt signaling, regulates tumorigenesis of CRC. However, the contribution of mTOR and its interaction partners toward regulating CRC progression and metastasis remains poorly understood. We found that increased expression of mTOR, Raptor, and Rictor mRNA was noted with advanced stages of CRC, suggesting that mTOR signaling may be associated with CRC progression and metastasis. mTOR, Raptor, and Rictor protein levels were also significantly elevated in primary CRCs (stage IV) and their matched distant metastases compared with normal colon. Inhibition of mTOR signaling, using rapamycin or stable inhibition of mTORC1 (Raptor) and mTORC2 (Rictor), attenuated migration and invasion of CRCs. Furthermore, knockdown of mTORC1 and mTORC2 induced a mesenchymal-epithelial transition (MET) and enhanced chemosensitivity of CRCs to oxaliplatin. We observed increased cell-cell contact and decreased actin cytoskeletal remodeling concomitant with decreased activation of the small GTPases, RhoA and Rac1, upon inhibition of both mTORC1 and mTORC2. Finally, establishment of CRC metastasis in vivo was completely abolished with targeted inhibition of mTORC1 and mTORC2 irrespective of the site of colonization. Our findings support a role for elevated mTORC1 and mTORC2 activity in regulating epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT), motility, and metastasis of CRCs via RhoA and Rac1 signaling. These findings provide the rationale for including mTOR kinase inhibitors, which inhibit both mTORC1 and mTORC2, as part of the therapeutic regimen for CRC patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3246-3256
Number of pages11
JournalCancer Research
Issue number9
StatePublished - May 1 2011
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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