Small molecules bind human mTOR protein and inhibit mTORC1 specifically

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Abstract

Inhibition of mTOR activity (mechanistic target of rapamycin) is an anti-cancer therapeutic strategy. mTOR participates in two functional complexes, mTORC1 and mTORC2. Since mTORC1 is specifically activated in multiple tumors, novel molecules that inhibit mTORC1 could be therapeutically important. To identify potentially novel modulators of mTOR pathways, we screened 1600 small molecule human drugs for mTOR protein binding, using novel biolayer interferometry technology. We identified several small molecules that bound to mTOR protein in a dose-dependent manner, on multiple chemical scaffolds. As mTOR participates in two major complexes, mTORC1 and mTORC2, the functional specificities of the binders were measured by S6Kinase and Akt phosphorylation assays. Three novel ‘mTOR general’ binders were identified, carvedilol, testosterone propionate, and hydroxyprogesterone, which inhibited both mTORC1 and mTORC2. By contrast, the piperazine drug cinnarizine dose-dependently inhibited mTORC1 but not mTORC2, suggesting it as a novel mTORC1-specific inhibitor. Some of cinnarizine's chemical analogs also inhibited mTORC1 specifically, whereas others did not. Thus we report the existence of a novel target for some related piperazines including cinnarizine and hydroxyzine, i.e. specific inhibition of mTORC1 activity. Since mTOR inhibition is a general anti-cancer strategy, and mTORC1 is specifically activated in some tumors, we suggest the piperazine scaffold, including cinnarizine and hydroxyzine, could be proposed for rational therapy in tumors in which mTORC1 is specifically activated. Related piperazines have shown toxicity to cancer cells in vitro as single agents and in combination chemotherapy. Thus piperazine-based mTOR inhibitors could become a novel chemotherapeutic strategy.

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