mTOR kinase, a key player in the regulation of glial functions: Relevance for the therapy of multiple sclerosis

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The mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) is a serine/threonine protein kinase with a central role in the regulation of cell growth and proliferation, and several intracellular processes, such as mRNA transcription and translation, autophagy and cytoskeletal organization. The relevance of this pathway in the regulation of the immune system is well characterized. mTOR is essential for the proper activation and proliferation of effector T cells, restricts the development of regulatory T cells, and downregulates innate immune responses. Recently, a direct role of mTOR in the modulation of glial functions has also been recognized. Data from our group and others support the notion that mTOR is involved in microglial proinflammatory activation. The kinase regulates several intracellular processes in astrocytes, among which the rate of mRNA degradation of the inducible form of NO synthase. Therefore, the inhibition of mTOR kinase activity in glial cells results in anti-inflammatory actions, suggesting possible beneficial effects of mTOR inhibitors (like rapamycin) in the treatment of inflammatory-based pathologies of the central nervous system. In contrast, mTOR plays an important role in the regulation of oligodendrocyte development and myelination process as well as several neuronal functions, which may limit this therapeutic approach. Nevertheless, as reviewed here, there is robust evidence that rapamycin ameliorates the clinical course of both the relapsing-remitting and the chronic experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE), and significantly reduces the hyperalgesia observed before clinical development of EAE. These findings may have important clinical implications for the therapy of multiple sclerosis. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
Lingua originaleEnglish
pagine (da-a)301-311
Numero di pagine11
Stato di pubblicazionePubblicato - 2013


  • EAE
  • NOS2
  • T cells
  • astrocytes
  • inflammation
  • mTOR
  • microglia
  • multiple sclerosis
  • myelination
  • neuroprotection
  • oligodendrocytes
  • peripheral immune system


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