Translationally controlled tumor protein (TCTP) is expressed in many tissues, particularly in human tumors. It plays a role in malignant transformation, apoptosis prevention, and DNA damage repair. The signaling mechanisms underlying TCTP regulation in cancer are only partially understood. Here, we investigated the role of mTORC1 in regulating TCTP protein levels, thereby modulating chemosensitivity, in human lung cancer cells and an A549 lung cancer xenograft model. The inhibition of mTORC1, but not mTORC2, induced ubiquitin/proteasome-dependent TCTP degradation without a decrease in the mRNA level. PLK1 activity was required for TCTP ubiquitination and degradation and for its phosphorylation at Ser46 upon mTORC1 inhibition. Akt phosphorylation and activation was indispensable for rapamycin-induced TCTP degradation and PLK1 activation, and depended on S6K inhibition, but not mTORC2 activation. Furthermore, the minimal dose of rapamycin required to induce TCTP proteolysis enhanced the efficacy of DNA-damaging drugs, such as cisplatin and doxorubicin, through the induction of apoptotic cell death in vitro and in vivo. This synergistic cytotoxicity of these drugs was induced irrespective of the functional status of p53. These results demonstrate a new mechanism of TCTP regulation in which the mTORC1/S6K pathway inhibits a novel Akt/PLK1 signaling axis and thereby induces TCTP protein stabilization and confers resistance to DNA-damaging agents. The results of this study suggest a new therapeutic strategy for enhancing chemosensitivity in lung cancers regardless of the functional status of p53.
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