In response to growth factors, mTOR (mammalian target of rapamycin) has been identified as a central component of the signalling pathways that control the translational machinery and cell growth. Signalling through mTOR has also been shown to be necessary for the mechanical load-induced growth of cardiac and skeletal muscles. Although the mechanisms involved for mechanically induced activation of mTOR are not known, it has been suggested that activation of PI3K (phosphoinositide 3-kinase) and protein kinase B (Akt), via the release of locally acting growth factors, underlies this process. In the present study, we show that mechanically stimulating (passive stretch) the skeletal muscle ex vivo results in the activation of mTOR-dependent signalling events. The activation of mTOR-dependent signalling events was necessary for an increase in translational efficiency, demonstrating the physiological significance of this pathway. Using pharmacological inhibitors, we show that activation of mTOR-dependent signalling occurs through a PI3K-independent pathway. Consistent with these results, mechanically induced signalling through mTOR was not disrupted in muscles from Akt1−/− mice. In addition, ex vivo co-incubation experiments, along with in vitro conditioned-media experiments, demonstrate that a mechanically induced release of locally acting autocrine/paracrine growth factors was not sufficient for the activation of the mTOR pathway. Taken together, our results demonstrate that mechanical stimuli can activate the mTOR pathway independent of PI3K/Akt1 and locally acting growth factors. Thus mechanical stimuli and growth factors provide distinct inputs through which mTOR co-ordinates an increase in the translational efficiency.

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