Glucagon transiently stimulates mTORC1 by activation of an EPAC/Rap1 signaling axis

Siddharth Sunilkumar, Scot R. Kimball, Michael D. Dennis

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3 Scopus citations


Activation of the protein kinase mechanistic target of rapamycin (mTOR) in both complexes 1 and 2 (mTORC1/2) in the liver is repressed during fasting and rapidly stimulated in response to a meal. The effect of feeding on hepatic mTORC1/2 is attributed to an increase in plasma levels of nutrients, such as amino acids, and insulin. By contrast, fasting is associated with elevated plasma levels of glucagon, which is conventionally viewed as having a counter-regulatory role to insulin. More recently an expanded role for glucagon action in post-prandial metabolism has been demonstrated. Herein we investigated the impact of insulin and glucagon on mTORC1/2 activation. In H4IIE and HepG2 cultures, insulin enhanced phosphorylation of the mTORC1 substrates S6K1 and 4E-BP1. Surprisingly, the effect of glucagon on mTORC1 was biphasic, wherein there was an acute increase in phosphorylation of S6K1 and 4E-BP1 over the first hour of exposure, followed by latent suppression. The transient stimulatory effect of glucagon on mTORC1 was not additive with insulin, suggesting convergent signaling. Glucagon enhanced cAMP levels and mTORC1 stimulation required activation of the glucagon receptor, PI3K/Akt, and exchange protein activated by cAMP (EPAC). EPAC acts as the guanine nucleotide exchange factor for the small GTPase Rap1. Rap1 expression enhanced S6K1 phosphorylation and glucagon addition to culture medium promoted Rap1-GTP loading. Signaling through mTORC1 acts to regulate protein synthesis and we found that glucagon promoted an EPAC-dependent increase in protein synthesis. Overall, the findings support that glucagon elicits acute activation of mTORC1/2 by an EPAC-dependent increase in Rap1-GTP.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number110010
JournalCellular Signalling
StatePublished - Aug 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cell Biology


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