mTOR signaling in VIP neurons regulates circadian clock synchrony and olfaction

Dong Liu, Adam Stowie, Nuria de Zavalia, Tanya Leise, Salil Saurav Pathak, Lester R Drewes, Alec J. Davidson, Shimon Amir, Nahum Sonenberg, Ruifeng Cao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


Mammalian/mechanistic target of rapamycin (mTOR) signaling controls cell growth, proliferation, and metabolism in dividing cells. Less is known regarding its function in postmitotic neurons in the adult brain. Here we created a conditional mTOR knockout mouse model to address this question. Using the Cre-LoxP system, the mTOR gene was specifically knocked out in cells expressing Vip (vasoactive intestinal peptide), which represent a major population of interneurons widely distributed in the neocortex, suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), olfactory bulb (OB), and other brain regions. Using a combination of biochemical, behavioral, and imaging approaches, we found that mice lacking mTOR in VIP neurons displayed erratic circadian behavior and weakened synchronization among cells in the SCN, the master circadian pacemaker in mammals. Furthermore, we have discovered a critical role for mTOR signaling in mediating olfaction. Odor stimulated mTOR activation in the OB, anterior olfactory nucleus, as well as piriform cortex. Odor-evoked c-Fos responses along the olfactory pathway were abolished in mice lacking mTOR in VIP neurons, which is consistent with reduced olfactory sensitivity in these animals. Together, these results demonstrate that mTOR is a key regulator of SCN circadian clock synchrony and olfaction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E3296-E3304
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number14
StatePublished - Apr 3 2018

Bibliographical note

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© 2018 National Academy of Sciences. All Rights Reserved.


  • Circadian clock
  • MTOR
  • Olfaction
  • SCN
  • VIP


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