Truncating mutations in Apc are strongly linked to colorectal cancers. APC is a negative regulator of the Wnt pathway and constitutive Wnt activation mediated by enhanced Wnt/β-catenin target gene activation is believed to be the predominant mechanism responsible for Apc mutant phenotypes. However, recent evidence suggests that additional downstream effectors contribute to Apc mutant phenotypes. We previously identified a mechanism by which APC, acting through GSK-3, suppresses mTORC1, a nutrient sensor that regulates cell growth and proliferation. We hypothesized that truncating Apc mutations should activate mTORC1 in vivo and that mTORC1 plays an important role in Apc mutant phenotypes. We find mTORC1 is strongly activated in Apc mutant zebrafish and in intestinal polyps in Apc mutant mice. Furthermore, mTORC1 activation is essential downstream of APC as mTORC1 inhibition partially rescues Apc mutant phenotypes including early lethality, reduced circulation, and liver hyperplasia. Importantly, combining mTORC1 and Wnt inhibition rescues defects in morphogenesis of the anterior-posterior axis that are not rescued by inhibition of either pathway alone. These data establish mTORC1 as a critical, β-catenin independent effector of oncogenic Apc mutations and highlight the importance of mTORC1 regulation by APC during embryonic development. Our findings also suggest a new model of colorectal cancer pathogenesis in which mTORC1 is activated in parallel with Wnt/β-catenin signaling.
- Received April 4, 2013.
- Accepted September 29, 2013.
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