[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: To clarify the involvement of autophagy in neuronal differentiation, the effect of rapamycin, an mTOR complex inhibitor, on the dibutyryl cAMP (dbcAMP)-induced differentiation of NG108-15 cells was examined. Treatment of NG108-15 cells with 1 mM dbcAMP resulted in induction of differentiation, including neurite outgrowth and varicosity formation, enhanced voltage-sensitive Ca2+ channel activity and expression of microtubule-associated protein 2, and these effects involved phosphorylation of cAMP-response element binding protein (CREB) and extracellular signal regulated kinase (ERK). Simultaneous application of dbcAMP and rapamycin synergistically increased and accelerated differentiation. mTOR or raptor silencing with siRNA had a similar effect to rapamycin. Rapamycin and silencing of mTOR or raptor evoked autophagy, while blockade of autophagy by addition of 3-methyladenine or beclin 1 or Atg5 silencing prevented the potentiation of differentiation. Silencing of rictor also evokes autophagy, at a level 55% of that induced by raptor silencing and enhancement of differentiation is proportional. Rapamycin also caused increased ATP generation and cell cycle arrest in G0/G1 phase, but had no effect on CREB and ERK phosphorylation. dbcAMP also induced ATP generation, but not autophagy or cell cycle arrest. These results suggest that the increased autophagy, ATP generation and cell cycle arrest caused by mTOR inhibition promotes the dbcAMP-induced differentiation of NG108-15 cells.