The TOR (target of rapamycin), an atypical protein kinase, is evolutionarily conserved from yeast to man. Pharmacological studies using rapamycin to inhibit TOR and yeast genetic studies have provided key insights on the function of TOR in growth regulation. One of the first bona fide cellular targets of TOR was the mammalian protein kinase p70 S6K (p70 S6 kinase), a member of a family of kinases called AGC (protein kinase A/protein kinase G/protein kinase C-family) kinases, which include PKA (cAMP-dependent protein kinase A), PKG (cGMP-dependent kinase) and PKC (protein kinase C). AGC kinases are also highly conserved and play a myriad of roles in cellular growth, proliferation and survival. The AGC kinases are regulated by a common scheme that involves phosphorylation of the kinase activation loop by PDK1 (phosphoinositide-dependent kinase 1), and phosphorylation at one or more sites at the C-terminal tail. The identification of two distinct TOR protein complexes, TORC1 (TOR complex 1) and TORC2, with different sensitivities to rapamycin, revealed that TOR, as part of either complex, can mediate phosphorylation at the C-terminal tail for optimal activation of a number of AGC kinases. Together, these studies elucidated that a fundamental function of TOR conserved throughout evolution may be to balance growth versus survival signals by regulating AGC kinases in response to nutrients and environmental conditions. This present review highlights this emerging function of TOR that is conserved from budding and fission yeast to mammals.

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