mTOR [mammalian (or mechanistic) target of rapamycin] is a protein kinase that, as part of mTORC1 (mTOR complex 1), acts as a critical molecular link between growth signals and the processes underlying cell growth. Although there has been intense interest in the upstream mechanisms regulating mTORC1, the full repertoire of downstream molecular events through which mTORC1 signalling promotes cell growth is only recently coming to light. It is now recognized that mTORC1 promotes cell growth and proliferation in large part through the activation of key anabolic processes. Through a variety of downstream targets, mTORC1 alters cellular metabolism to drive the biosynthesis of building blocks and macromolecules fundamentally essential for cell growth, including proteins, lipids and nucleic acids. In the present review, we focus on the metabolic functions of mTORC1 as they relate to the control of cell growth and proliferation. As mTORC1 is aberrantly activated in a number of tumour syndromes and up to 80% of human cancers, we also discuss the importance of this mTORC1-driven biosynthetic programme in tumour growth and progression.

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