Kinase Inhibition

Target of rapamycin, TOR, kinase is a conserved regulator of cell growth whose activity is modulated in response to nutrients, energy and stress. Key proteins involved in the pathway are conserved in the model photosynthetic microalga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, but the substrates of TOR kinase and downstream signaling network have not been elucidated. A study by the Hicks Group, published in New Phytologist, provides a new resource for investigating the phosphorylation networks governed by the TOR kinase pathway in Chlamydomonas.

Members of the Hicks Group used quantitative phosphoproteomics to investigate the effects of inhibiting Chlamydomonas TOR kinase on dynamic protein phosphorylation. Wild‐type and AZD‐insensitive Chlamydomonas strains were treated with TOR‐specific chemical inhibitors, rapamycin, AZD8055 and Torin1, after which differentially affected phosphosites were identified.

The group's quantitative phosphoproteomic dataset comprised 2547 unique phosphosites from 1432 different proteins. Inhibition of TOR kinase caused significant quantitative changes in phosphorylation at 258 phosphosites, from 219 unique phosphopeptides.

These results include Chlamydomonas homologs of TOR signaling‐related proteins, including a site on RPS6 with a decrease in phosphorylation. Additionally, phosphosites on proteins involved in translation and carotenoid biosynthesis were identified. Follow‐up experiments guided by these phosphoproteomic findings in lycopene beta/epsilon cyclase showed that carotenoid levels are affected by TORC1 inhibition and carotenoid production is under TOR control in algae.