The mechanistic target of rapamycin (mTOR) and AKT signaling cascades that coordinate eukaryotic cell growth and metabolism with environmental inputs, including nutrients and growth factors, are crucial regulators of cardiovascular growth and homeostasis. The authors observed increased phosphorylation of AKT and dysregulation of multiple downstream effectors of mTORC1, including S6K1, S6, ULK1 and 4EBP1, in a cardiac/skeletal muscle specific FRDA conditional knockout (cKO) mouse model and in human cell lines depleted of iron-sulfur cluster (ISC) biogenesis factors. Knockdown of several mitochondrial metabolic proteins that are downstream targets of ISC biogenesis, including lipoyl synthase and subunit B of succinate dehydrogenase, also resulted in activation of mTOR and AKT signaling, suggesting that mTOR and AKT hyperactivations are part of the metabolic stress response to ISC deficiencies. Administration of rapamycin, a specific inhibitor of mTOR signaling, enhanced the survival of the Fxn cKO mice, providing proof of concept for the potential of mTOR inhibition to ameliorate cardiac disease in patients with defective ISC biogenesis. However, AKT phosphorylation remained high in rapamycin-treated Fxn cKO hearts, suggesting that parallel mTOR and AKT inhibition might be necessary to further improve the lifespan and healthspan of ISC deficient individuals.

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