Autophagy is a lysosomal degradation pathway that degrades cytoplasmic proteins and organelles. Absence of autophagy in hepatocytes has been linked to promoting liver injury and tumorigenesis; however, the mechanisms behind why a lack of autophagy induces these complications are not fully understood. The role of mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) in impaired autophagy-induced liver pathogenesis and tumorigenesis was investigated by using liver-specific autophagy related 5 knockout (L-ATG5 KO) mice, L-ATG5/mTOR, and L-ATG5/Raptor double knockout (DKO) mice. We found that deletion of mTOR or Raptor in L-ATG5 KO mice at 2 months of age attenuated hepatomegaly, cell death, and inflammation but not fibrosis. Surprisingly, at 6 months of age, L-ATG5/mTOR DKO and L-ATG5/Raptor DKO mice also had increased hepatic inflammation, fibrosis, and liver injury, similar to the L-ATG5 KO mice. Moreover, more than 50% of L-ATG5/mTOR DKO and L-ATG5/Raptor DKO mice already developed spontaneous tumors, but none of the L-ATG5 KO mice had developed any tumors at 6 months of age. At 9 months of age, all L-ATG5/mTOR DKO and L-ATG5/Raptor DKO had developed liver tumors. Mechanistically, L-ATG5/mTOR DKO and L-ATG5/Raptor DKO mice had decreased levels of hepatic ubiquitinated proteins and persistent nuclear erythroid 2 p45-related factor 2 activation but had increased Akt activation compared with L-ATG5 KO mice. Conclusion: Loss of mTOR signaling attenuates the liver pathogenesis in mice with impaired hepatic autophagy but paradoxically promotes tumorigenesis in mice at a relatively young age. Therefore, the balance of mTOR is critical in regulating the liver pathogenesis and tumorigenesis in mice with impaired hepatic autophagy.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes