mTORC1 vs. mTORC2

What's the Difference?

mTORC1 and mTORC2 are two distinct complexes of the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) protein that play crucial roles in cellular signaling pathways. While both complexes are involved in regulating cell growth and metabolism, they have different functions and downstream targets. mTORC1 primarily regulates protein synthesis, cell proliferation, and autophagy, and is sensitive to nutrient availability and growth factors. On the other hand, mTORC2 is involved in cell survival, cytoskeletal organization, and glucose metabolism, and is less sensitive to nutrient levels. Additionally, mTORC1 is rapamycin-sensitive, while mTORC2 is rapamycin-insensitive. Overall, these two complexes of mTOR have distinct roles in cellular processes and contribute to the overall regulation of cell growth and metabolism.


FunctionRegulates cell growth, protein synthesis, and autophagyRegulates cell survival, cytoskeletal organization, and metabolism
ComponentsmTOR, Raptor, mLST8mTOR, Rictor, mLST8
ActivationStimulated by growth factors, amino acids, and energy availabilityActivated by growth factors and insulin
Downstream TargetsPhosphorylates S6K1, 4E-BP1, and ULK1Phosphorylates AKT, PKC, and SGK1
Subcellular LocalizationPrimarily cytoplasmicFound in both cytoplasm and nucleus
Role in CancerOveractivation associated with tumor growth and progressionImplicated in cancer cell survival and drug resistance

Further Detail


mTOR (mechanistic target of rapamycin) is a protein kinase that plays a crucial role in regulating cellular processes such as growth, metabolism, and survival. It exists in two distinct complexes, mTORC1 and mTORC2, which have different functions and signaling pathways. In this article, we will explore the attributes of mTORC1 and mTORC2, highlighting their similarities and differences.


mTORC1 is a complex consisting of mTOR, regulatory-associated protein of mTOR (Raptor), and other associated proteins. It is primarily responsible for sensing and integrating various signals to control cell growth and metabolism. mTORC1 is activated by growth factors, amino acids, and energy status, and it regulates processes such as protein synthesis, autophagy, and lipid metabolism.

One of the key functions of mTORC1 is the promotion of protein synthesis. It phosphorylates and activates downstream targets such as S6K1 and 4E-BP1, which regulate mRNA translation and ribosome biogenesis. This leads to increased protein production, essential for cell growth and proliferation.

mTORC1 also plays a role in lipid metabolism. It regulates the synthesis of lipids, including cholesterol and fatty acids, through the activation of transcription factors such as SREBP (sterol regulatory element-binding protein) and PPARγ (peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma). These lipids are crucial for membrane formation and energy storage.

Furthermore, mTORC1 inhibits autophagy, a cellular process that degrades and recycles damaged organelles and proteins. When mTORC1 is active, autophagy is suppressed, allowing cells to prioritize growth and survival. This inhibition of autophagy by mTORC1 is mediated through the phosphorylation of ULK1, a key regulator of autophagy initiation.

Lastly, mTORC1 is involved in the regulation of cell cycle progression. It promotes cell cycle entry by activating cyclin-dependent kinases (CDKs) and inhibits cell cycle arrest through the downregulation of p27, a CDK inhibitor. These actions of mTORC1 contribute to cell growth and proliferation.


mTORC2 is a complex consisting of mTOR, rapamycin-insensitive companion of mTOR (Rictor), and other associated proteins. It has distinct functions from mTORC1 and is involved in the regulation of cell survival, cytoskeletal organization, and metabolism.

One of the primary roles of mTORC2 is the regulation of cell survival and apoptosis. It phosphorylates and activates AKT (protein kinase B), a key signaling molecule that promotes cell survival and inhibits apoptosis. Activated AKT regulates downstream targets involved in cell survival, such as FOXO transcription factors and the pro-apoptotic protein BAD.

mTORC2 also plays a crucial role in cytoskeletal organization. It regulates the actin cytoskeleton through the phosphorylation and activation of proteins such as PKCα (protein kinase C alpha) and Rho GTPases. This regulation is essential for processes like cell migration, adhesion, and shape maintenance.

In addition to its role in cell survival and cytoskeletal organization, mTORC2 is involved in metabolic regulation. It regulates glucose metabolism by phosphorylating and activating the kinase SGK1 (serum and glucocorticoid-regulated kinase 1), which promotes glucose uptake and utilization. mTORC2 also influences lipid metabolism by regulating the activity of lipogenic enzymes and transcription factors involved in lipid synthesis.

Furthermore, mTORC2 has been implicated in the regulation of insulin signaling. It phosphorylates and activates the insulin receptor substrate 1 (IRS1), a key mediator of insulin signaling, leading to the activation of downstream signaling pathways involved in glucose uptake and metabolism.

Similarities and Differences

While mTORC1 and mTORC2 share some common attributes, they also have distinct functions and signaling pathways. Both complexes are regulated by growth factors and nutrients, but mTORC1 is more sensitive to amino acids, particularly leucine, whereas mTORC2 is less dependent on amino acids for its activation.

Another difference lies in their sensitivity to rapamycin, a drug that inhibits mTOR signaling. mTORC1 is sensitive to acute rapamycin treatment, leading to its inhibition, while mTORC2 is relatively resistant to rapamycin. This differential sensitivity has important implications for therapeutic interventions targeting mTOR signaling.

Furthermore, mTORC1 and mTORC2 have different protein components. mTORC1 contains Raptor, which is absent in mTORC2, while mTORC2 contains Rictor, which is absent in mTORC1. These unique protein compositions contribute to the distinct functions and signaling pathways of each complex.

Despite their differences, mTORC1 and mTORC2 are interconnected and can influence each other's activities. For example, mTORC1 can indirectly regulate mTORC2 through the phosphorylation of AKT, a key component of mTORC2 signaling. Additionally, mTORC2 can modulate mTORC1 activity through the regulation of insulin signaling and the phosphorylation of downstream targets involved in protein synthesis and autophagy.

In conclusion, mTORC1 and mTORC2 are two distinct complexes of the mTOR protein kinase, each with unique attributes and functions. While mTORC1 primarily regulates cell growth, metabolism, and autophagy, mTORC2 is involved in cell survival, cytoskeletal organization, and metabolism. Understanding the differences and similarities between these complexes is crucial for unraveling the complex signaling networks controlled by mTOR and developing targeted therapies for various diseases.

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