Hypothalamic mTOR: the rookie energy sensor.
Martínez de Morentin PB., Martinez-Sanchez N., Roa J., Ferno J., Nogueiras R., Tena-Sempere M., Dieguez C., Lopez M.
Optimal cellular function and therefore organism's survival is determined by the sensitive and accurate convergence of energy and nutrient abundance to cell growth and division. Among other factors, this integration is coupled by the target of rapamycin (TOR) pathway, which is able to sense nutrient, energy and oxygen availability and also growth factor signaling. Indeed, TOR signaling regulates cell energy homeostasis by coordinating anabolic and catabolic processes for survival. TOR, named mTOR in mammals, is a conserved serine/threonine kinase that exists in two different complexes, mTORC1 and mTORC2. Recently, studies are suggesting that alterations of those complexes promote disease and disrupted phenotypes, such as aging, obesity and related disorders and even cancer. The evidences linking mTOR to energy and metabolic homeostasis included the following. At central level mTOR regulates food intake and body weight being involved in the mechanism by which signals such as leptin and ghrelin exert its effects. At peripheral level it influences adipogenesis and lipogenesis in different tissues including the liver. Noteworthy chronic nutritional activation of mTOR signaling has been implicated in the development of beta cell mass expansion and on insulin resistance. Understanding of mTOR and other molecular switches, such as AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK), as well as their interrelationship is crucial to know how organisms maintain optimal homeostasis. This review summarizes the role of hypothalamic TOR complex in cellular energy sensing, evidenced in the last years, focusing on the metabolic pathways where it is involved and the importance of this metabolic sensor in cellular and whole body energy management. Understanding the exact role of hypothalamic mTOR may provide new cues for therapeutic intervention in diseases.