ERK and Akt signaling pathways function through parallel mechanisms to promote mTORC1 signaling

Jeremiah N. Winter, Leonard S. Jefferson, Scot R. Kimball

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

90 Scopus citations


The mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) is a protein kinase that, when present in a complex referred to as mTOR complex 1 (mTORC1), acts as an important regulator of growth and metabolism. The activity of the complex is regulated through multiple upstream signaling pathways, including those involving Akt and the extracellular- regulated kinase (ERK). Previous studies have shown that, in part, Akt and ERK promote mTORC1 signaling through phosphorylation of a GTPase activator protein (GAP), referred to as tuberous sclerosis complex 2 (TSC2), that acts as an upstream inhibitor of mTORC1. In the present study we extend the earlier studies to show that activation of the Akt and ERK pathways acts in a synergistic manner to promote mTORC1 signaling. Moreover, we provide evidence that the Akt and ERK signaling pathways converge on TSC2, and that Akt phosphorylates residues on TSC2 distinct from those phosphorylated by ERK. The results also suggest that leucine-induced stimulation of mTORC1 signaling occurs through a mechanism distinct from TSC2 and the Akt and ERK signaling pathways. Overall, the results are consistent with a model in which Akt and ERK phosphorylate distinct sites on TSC2, leading to greater repression of its GAP activity, and consequently a magnified stimulation of mTORC1 signaling, when compared with either input alone. The results further suggest that leucine acts through a mechanism distinct from TSC2 to stimulate mTORC1 signaling.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)C1172-C1180
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Cell Physiology
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Physiology
  • Cell Biology


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