Date of Award

Spring 5-20-2019

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Biological Science

First Advisor

Shafiq A. Khan, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Zhengxin Wang, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Valerie Odero-Marah, Ph.D.


In this study, we investigated differential activation and the role of two mTOR complexes in cell migration of prostate cancer cells. Specific knock-down of endogenous RAPTOR and RICTOR by siRNA resulted in decreased cell migration in LNCaP, DU145, and PC3 cells indicating that both mTORC1 and mTORC2 are required for cell migration. EGF treatment induced the activation of both mTORC1 and mTORC2 as determined by complex-specific phosphorylation of mTOR protein. Specific knock-down or inhibition of Rac1 activity in PC3 cells blocked EGF-induced activation of mTORC2, but had no effect on mTORC1 activation. Furthermore, the over-expression of constitutively active Rac1 (Rac1Q61L) resulted in significant increase in cell migration and activation of mTORC2 in PC3 cells, but had no effect on mTORC1 activation. Constitutively active Rac1 (Rac1Q61L) in PC3 cells was localized in the plasma membrane and was found to be in a protein complex which contained mTOR and RICTOR proteins, but not RAPTOR.

In conclusion, we suggested that EGF-induced activation of Rac1 causes the phosphorylation/activation of mTORC2 via RICTOR, specific regulator of mTORC2 activation in numerous cancer cells. The major role played by mTOR in a wide array of cancers has in the recent decades led to the development of numerous mTOR inhibitors. One of the drawback of these first generation mTOR inhibitors are that m TORC1 activity is inhibited but effect on mTORC2 activity require high dosages and prolonged exposure in different cancer cell types including HeLa, PC3, LNCaP, and A549. High dosage of rapamycin and its associated rapalogs required for mTORC2 inhibition is clinically unsuitable. Studies have shown that the dual mTORC1/C2 inhibitors trigger feedback loops causing metastasis and affect the cell viability of normal tissues in vitro and in vivo. There is a need for specific mTORC1 and mTORC2 inhibitor, which overcome the disadvantages of the previously developed mTOR inhibitors. The Rac1-RICTOR axis suggested in this study could be used as a potential target for the development of mTORC2 inhibitor and lead to a potential therapeutic treatment for aggressive prostate cancer.