Target of Rapamycin Inhibition in Chlamydomonas reinhardtii Triggers de Novo Amino Acid Synthesis by Enhancing Nitrogen Assimilation

The Target of Rapamycin (TOR) kinase is a central regulator of growth and metabolism in all eukaryotic organisms, including animals, fungi, and plants. Even though the inputs and outputs of TOR signaling are well characterized for animals and fungi, our understanding of the upstream regulators of TOR and its downstream targets is still fragmentary in photosynthetic organisms. In this study, we employed the rapamycin-sensitive green alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii to elucidate the molecular cause of the amino acid accumulation that occurs after rapamycin-induced inhibition of TOR. Using different growth conditions and stable 13C- and 15N-isotope labeling, we show that this phenotype is accompanied by increased nitrogen (N) uptake, which is induced within minutes of TOR inhibition. Interestingly, this increased N influx is accompanied by increased activities of glutamine synthetase and glutamine oxoglutarate aminotransferase, the main N-assimilating enzymes, which are responsible for the rise in levels of several amino acids, which occurs within a few minutes. Accordingly, we conclude that even though translation initiation and autophagy have been reported to be the main downstream targets of TOR, the upregulation of de novo amino acid synthesis seems to be one of the earliest responses induced after the inhibition of TOR in Chlamydomonas.

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