Prospects for mTOR inhibitor use in patients with polycystic kidney disease and hamartomatous diseases

Vicente E. Torres, Alessandra Boletta, Arlene Chapman, Vincent Gattone, York Pei, Qi Qian, Darren P. Wallace, Thomas Weimbs, Rudolf P. Wüthrich

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

75 Scopus citations


Mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) is the core component of two complexes, mTORC1 and mTORC2. mTORC1 is inhibited by rapamycin and analogues. mTORC2 is impeded only in some cell types by prolonged exposure to these compounds. mTOR activation is linked to tubular cell proliferation in animal models and human autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease (ADPKD). mTOR inhibitors impede cell proliferation and cyst growth in polycystic kidney disease (PKD) models. After renal transplantation, two small retrospective studies suggested that mTOR was more effective than calcineurin inhibitor-based immunosuppression in limiting kidney and/or liver enlargement. By inhibiting vascular remodeling, angiogenesis, and fibrogenesis, mTOR inhibitors may attenuate nephroangiosclerosis, cyst growth, and interstitial fibrosis. Thus, they may benefit ADPKD at multiple levels. However, mTOR inhibition is not without risks and side effects, mostly dose-dependent. Under certain conditions, mTOR inhibition interferes with adaptive increases in renal proliferation necessary for recovery from injury. They restrict Akt activation, nitric oxide synthesis, and endothelial cell survival (downstream from mTORC2) and potentially increase the risk for glomerular and peritubular capillary loss, vasospasm, and hypertension. They impair podocyte integrity pathways and may predispose to glomerular injury. Administration of mTOR inhibitors is discontinued because of side effects in up to 40% of transplant recipients. Currently, treatment with mTOR inhibitors should not be recommended to treat ADPKD. Results of ongoing studies must be awaited and patients informed accordingly. If effective, lower dosages than those used to prevent rejection would minimize side effects. Combination therapy with other effective drugs could improve tolerability and results.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1312-1329
Number of pages18
JournalClinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine
  • Nephrology
  • Transplantation


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