Roles of mTOR complexes in the kidney: implications for renal disease and transplantation

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The mTOR pathway has a central role in the regulation of cell metabolism, growth and proliferation. Studies involving selective gene targeting of mTOR complexes (mTORC1 and mTORC2) in renal cell populations and/or pharmacologic mTOR inhibition have revealed important roles of mTOR in podocyte homeostasis and tubular transport. Important advances have also been made in understanding the role of mTOR in renal injury, polycystic kidney disease and glomerular diseases, including diabetic nephropathy. Novel insights into the roles of mTORC1 and mTORC2 in the regulation of immune cell homeostasis and function are helping to improve understanding of the complex effects of mTOR targeting on immune responses, including those that impact both de novo renal disease and renal allograft outcomes. Extensive experience in clinical renal transplantation has resulted in successful conversion of patients from calcineurin inhibitors to mTOR inhibitors at various times post-transplantation, with excellent long-term graft function. Widespread use of this practice has, however, been limited owing to mTOR-inhibitor-related toxicities. Unique attributes of mTOR inhibitors include reduced rates of squamous cell carcinoma and cytomegalovirus infection compared to other regimens. As understanding of the mechanisms by which mTORC1 and mTORC2 drive the pathogenesis of renal disease progresses, clinical studies of mTOR pathway targeting will enable testing of evolving hypotheses.

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