Rapamycin (Rap) and its derivatives, called rapalogs, are being explored in clinical trials targeting cancer and neurodegeneration. The underlying mechanisms of Rap actions, however, are not well understood. Mechanistic target of rapamycin (mTOR), a lysosomelocalized protein kinase that acts as a critical regulator of cellular growth, is believed to mediate most Rap actions. Here, we identified mucolipin 1 (transient receptor potential channel mucolipin 1 [TRPML1], also known as MCOLN1), the principle Ca2+ release channel in the lysosome, as another direct target of Rap. Patch-clamping of isolated lysosomal membranes showed that micromolar concentrations of Rap and some rapalogs activated lysosomal TRPML1 directly and specifically. Pharmacological inhibition or genetic inactivation of mTOR failed to mimic the Rap effect. In vitro binding assays revealed that Rap bound directly to purified TRPML1 proteins with a micromolar affinity. In both healthy and disease human fibroblasts, Rap and rapalogs induced autophagic flux via nuclear translocation of transcription factor EB (TFEB). However, such effects were abolished in TRPML1-deficient cells or by TRPML1 inhibitors. Hence, Rap and rapalogs promote autophagy via a TRPML1-dependent mechanism. Given the demonstrated roles of TRPML1 and TFEB in cellular clearance, we propose that lysosomal TRPML1 may contribute a significant portion to the in vivo neuroprotective and anti-aging effects of Rap via an augmentation of autophagy and lysosomal biogenesis.
Zhang X, Chen W, Gao Q, Yang J, Yan X, Zhao H, et al. (2019) Rapamycin directly activates lysosomal mucolipin TRP channels independent of mTOR. PLoS Biol 17(5): e3000252. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.3000252
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