Lysosomal cholesterol activates mTORC1 via an SLC38A9–Niemann-Pick C1 signaling complex

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Science  24 Mar 2017:
Vol. 355, Issue 6331, pp. 1306-1311
DOI: 10.1126/science.aag1417

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Lysosomal cholesterol activates mTORC1

The mTORC1 kinase is a master nutrient sensor that governs cellular metabolism. When dysregulated, this kinase drives several human diseases, including cancer and diabetes. Recent work has delineated a pathway through which amino acids regulate mTORC1. In contrast, little is known about how sterols may affect mTORC1 signaling. Castellano et al. provide detailed mechanistic evidence for how cholesterol, derived from the processing of low-density lipoprotein in the lysosomal lumen, drives mTORC1 signaling. They identify the key players that couple lysosomal cholesterol levels to mTORC1 activation. Unexpectedly, the putative amino acid transporter SLC38A9, which is implicated in mTORC1 regulation by arginine, is essential for mTORC1 activation by cholesterol. Furthermore, the authors uncover a physical and functional interaction between SLC38A9 and the major lysosomal cholesterol transporter, Niemann-Pick C1 (NPC1) protein. The SLC38A9-NPC1 complex is key to the ability of mTORC1 to respond to variations in dietary lipid supply.

Science, this issue p. 1306


The mechanistic target of rapamycin complex 1 (mTORC1) protein kinase is a master growth regulator that becomes activated at the lysosome in response to nutrient cues. Here, we identify cholesterol, an essential building block for cellular growth, as a nutrient input that drives mTORC1 recruitment and activation at the lysosomal surface. The lysosomal transmembrane protein, SLC38A9, is required for mTORC1 activation by cholesterol through conserved cholesterol-responsive motifs. Moreover, SLC38A9 enables mTORC1 activation by cholesterol independently from its arginine-sensing function. Conversely, the Niemann-Pick C1 (NPC1) protein, which regulates cholesterol export from the lysosome, binds to SLC38A9 and inhibits mTORC1 signaling through its sterol transport function. Thus, lysosomal cholesterol drives mTORC1 activation and growth signaling through the SLC38A9-NPC1 complex.

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