Akt is a serine/threonine kinase that mediates signaling downstream of tyrosine kinase receptors like the type I insulin-like growth factor receptor (IGF-IR). In fact, we have previously shown that mammary tumors induced by elevated expression of the IGF-IR are associated with hyperactivation of Akt. However, there are three mammalian isoforms of Akt (Akt1, Akt2 and Akt3) and these isoforms regulate distinct physiologic properties within cells. In this manuscript, the impact of disrupting Akt1 or Akt2 in mammary tumors induced by IGF-IR overexpression were examined to determine whether specific Akt isoforms regulate different aspects of mammary tumorigenesis.
Akt1 and Akt2 levels were stably ablated in mammary tumors of MTB-IGFIR transgenic mice by crossing MTB-IGFIR transgenic mice with either Akt1−/− or Akt2−/− mice. Tumor onset, growth rate, and metastasis were determined.
Ablation of Akt1 or Akt2 significantly delayed tumor onset and tumor growth rate but did not significantly alter lung metastasis. Despite the absence of Akt1 or Akt2, mammary tumors that developed in the MTB-IGFIR mice maintained detectable levels of phosphorylated Akt. Disruption of Akt1 or Akt2 did not affect cell morphology or the expression of luminal or basal cytokeratins in mammary tumors.
Although loss of Akt1 or Akt2 significantly inhibited mammary tumor onset and growth rates the effects were less dramatic than anticipated. Despite the complete loss of Akt1 or Akt2, the level of total phosphorylated Akt remained largely unaffected in the mammary tumors suggesting that loss of one Akt isoform is compensated by enhanced activation of the remaining Akt isoforms. These findings indicate that therapeutic strategies targeting the activation of individual Akt isoforms will prove less effective than simultaneously inhibiting the activity of all three Akt isoforms for the treatment of breast cancer.
p27kip1 (p27) is a multifunctional protein implicated in regulation of cell cycling, signal transduction, and adhesion. Its activity is controlled in part by Phosphatylinositol-3-Kinase (PI3K)/Akt1 signaling, and disruption of this regulatory connection has been identified in human breast cancers. The serine/threonine protein kinase Akt1 directly phosphorylates p27, so identifying the modified residue(s) is essential for understanding how it regulates p27 function. Various amino acids have been suggested as potential targets, but recent attention has focused on threonine 157 (T157) because it is located in a putative Akt1 consensus site. However, T157 is not evolutionarily conserved between mouse and human. We therefore re-evaluated Akt1 phosphorylation of p27 using purified proteins and in cells.
Here we show purified Akt1 phosphorylates human and mouse p27 equally well. Phospho-peptide mapping indicates Akt1 targets multiple sites conserved in both species, while phospho-amino acid analysis identifies the targeted residues as serine rather than threonine. P27 deletion mutants localized these sites to the N-terminus, which contains the major p27 phosphorylation site in cells (serine 10). P27 phosphorylated by Akt1 was detected by a phospho-S10 specific antibody, confirming this serine was targeted. Akt1 failed to phosphorylate p27S10A despite evidence of a second site from mapping experiments. This surprising result suggested S10 phosphorylation might be required for targeting the second site. We tested this idea by replacing S10 with threonine, which as expected led to the appearance of phospho-threonine. Phospho-serine was still present, however, confirming Akt1 sequentially targets multiple serines in this region. We took two approaches in an attempt to explain why different residues were previously implicated. A kinetic analysis revealed a putative Akt1 binding site in the C-terminus, which may explain why mutations in this region affect p27 phosphorylation. Furthermore, commercially available recombinant Akt1 preparations exhibit striking differences in substrate specificity and site selectivity. To confirm S10 is a relevant site, we first showed that full-length wild type Akt1 purified from mammalian cells phosphorylates both human and mouse p27 on S10. Finally, we found that in cultured cells under physiologically relevant conditions such as oxidative stress or growth factor deprivation, endogenous Akt1 causes p27 accumulation by phosphorylating S10.
Identifying where Akt1 phosphorylates p27 is essential for understanding its functional implications. We found that full-length wild type Akt1 – whether purified, transiently overexpressed in cells, or activated in response to cellular stress – phosphorylates p27 at S10, a noncanonical but evolutionarily conserved site known to regulate p27 activity and stability. Using recombinant Akt1 recapitulating this specificity, we showed modification of p27S10 also leads to phosphorylation of an adjacent serine. These results integrate PI3K/Akt1 signaling in response to stress with p27 regulation through its major phosphorylation site in cells, and thus identify new avenues for understanding p27 deregulation in human cancers.
We have shown previously that overexpression of constitutively active Akt or activation of Akt caused by constitutively active Ras or human epidermal growth factor receptor-2 (HER2) confers on breast cancer cells resistance to chemotherapy or radiotherapy. As an expanded study we here report differential responses in terms of phosphorylation and activation of Akt as a result of treatment with doxorubicin in a panel of breast cancer cell lines.
The levels of Akt phosphorylation and activity were measured by Western blot analysis with an anti-Ser473-phosphorylated Akt antibody and by in vitro Akt kinase assay using glycogen synthase kinase-3 as a substrate.
Within 24 hours after exposure to doxorubicin, MCF7, MDA468 and T47D cells showed a drug-dose-dependent increase in the levels of phosphorylated Akt; in contrast, SKBR3 and MDA231 cells showed a decrease in the levels of phosphorylated Akt, and minimal or no changes were detected in MDA361, MDA157 and BT474 cells. The doxorubicin-induced Akt phosphorylation was correlated with increased kinase activity and was dependent on phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3-K). An increased baseline level of Akt was also found in MCF7 cells treated with ionizing radiation. The cellular responses to doxorubicin-induced Akt phosphorylation were potentiated after the expression of Akt upstream activators including HER2, HER3 and focal adhesion kinase.
Taken together with our recent published results showing that constitutive Akt mediates resistance to chemotherapy or radiotherapy, our present data suggest that the doxorubicin-induced phosphorylation and activation of Akt might reflect a cellular defensive mechanism of cancer cells to overcome doxorubicin-induced cytotoxic effects, which further supports the current efforts of targeting PI3-K/Akt for enhancing the therapeutic responses of breast cancer cells to chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
The PTEN/Akt/β-catenin pathway is important for maintaining stem or progenitor cells in normal and cancerous breast tissue and may be a promising target for effective, long-lasting cancer treatment.
Recent evidence suggests that many malignancies, including breast cancer, are driven by a cellular subcomponent that displays stem cell-like properties. The protein phosphatase and tensin homolog (PTEN) is inactivated in a wide range of human cancers, an alteration that is associated with a poor prognosis. Because PTEN has been reported to play a role in the maintenance of embryonic and tissue-specific stem cells, we investigated the role of the PTEN/Akt pathway in the regulation of normal and malignant mammary stem/progenitor cell populations. We demonstrate that activation of this pathway, via PTEN knockdown, enriches for normal and malignant human mammary stem/progenitor cells in vitro and in vivo. Knockdown of PTEN in normal human mammary epithelial cells enriches for the stem/progenitor cell compartment, generating atypical hyperplastic lesions in humanized NOD/SCID mice. Akt-driven stem/progenitor cell enrichment is mediated by activation of the Wnt/β-catenin pathway through the phosphorylation of GSK3-β. In contrast to chemotherapy, the Akt inhibitor perifosine is able to target the tumorigenic cell population in breast tumor xenografts. These studies demonstrate an important role for the PTEN/PI3-K/Akt/β-catenin pathway in the regulation of normal and malignant stem/progenitor cell populations and suggest that agents that inhibit this pathway are able to effectively target tumorigenic breast cancer cells.
Healthy adult tissues are maintained through the regulated proliferation of a subset of cells known as tissue stem and progenitor cells. Many cancers, including breast cancer, also are thought to arise from and be maintained by a small population of cells that display stem cell-like properties. These so-called “cancer stem cells” may also contribute to tumor spread (metastasis), resistance to treatment, and disease relapse. Effective, long-lasting cancer treatments likely will need to target and eliminate these cancer stem cells specifically. Regulatory pathways responsible for maintaining cancer stem cells therefore may be promising targets for treatment. Breast cancers in humans frequently display abnormalities in the PTEN/PI3K/Akt pathway. We demonstrate using cell culture and a mouse model of breast cancer that stem or progenitor cells in both normal breast tissue and breast tumors are dependent for their continued growth on this pathway and on the Wnt/β-catenin pathway. We further show that the drug perifosine, which inhibits the kinase Akt, is able specifically to reduce the population of breast cancer stem or progenitor cells growing in mice. Our findings support the idea that drugs that selectively target breast cancer stem cells through the PTEN/PI3K/Akt pathway may reduce tumor growth and metastasis and result in improved patient outcomes.
Phosphorylated Akt (P-Akt) is an attractive molecular target because it contributes to the development of breast cancer and confers resistance to conventional therapies. Akt also serves as a signalling intermediate for receptors such as human epidermal growth factor receptor (HER)-2, which is overexpressed in 30% of breast cancers; therefore, inhibitors to this pathway are being sought. New celecoxib analogues reportedly inhibit P-Akt in prostate cancer cells. We therefore examined the potential of these compounds in the treatment of breast cancer. The analogues were characterized in MDA-MB-453 cells because they overexpress HER-2 and have very high levels of P-Akt.
To evaluate the effect of the celecoxib analogues, immunoblotting was used to identify changes in the phosphorylation of Akt and its downstream substrates glycogen synthase kinase (GSK) and 4E binding protein (4EBP-1). In vitro kinase assays were then used to assess the effect of the drugs on Akt activity. Cell death was evaluated by poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase cleavage, nucleosomal fragmentation and MTS assays. Finally, tumour tissue microarrays were screened for P-Akt and HER-2 expression.
OSU-03012 and OSU-O3013 inhibited P-Akt and its downstream signalling through 4EBP-1 and GSK at concentrations well below that of celecoxib. Disruption of P-Akt was followed by induction of apoptosis and more than 90% cell death. We also noted that the cytotoxicity of the celecoxib analogues was not significantly affected by serum. In contrast, the presence of 5% serum protected cells from celecoxib induced death. Thus, the structural modification of the celecoxib analogues increased P-Akt inhibition and enhanced the bioavailability of the drugs in vitro. To assess how many patients may potentially benefit from such drugs we screened tumour tissue microarrays. P-Akt was highly activated in 58% (225/390) of cases, whereas it was only similarly expressed in 35% (9/26) of normal breast tissues. Furthermore, HER-2 positive tumours expressed high levels of P-Akt (P < 0.01), supporting in vitro signal transduction.
We determined that Celecoxib analogues are potent inhibitors of P-Akt signalling and kill breast cancer cells that overexpress HER-2. We also defined an association between HER-2 and P-Akt in primary breast tissues, suggesting that these inhibitors may benefit patients in need of new treatment options.
3-Phosphoinositide-dependent protein kinase 1 (PDK1) is the pivotal element of the phosphatidylinositol 3 kinase (PI3K) signaling pathway because it phosphorylates Akt/PKB through interactions with phosphatidylinositol 3,4,5 phosphate. Recent data indicate that PDK1 is overexpressed in many breast carcinomas and that alterations of PDK1 are critical in the context of oncogenic PI3K activation. However, the role of PDK1 in tumor progression is still controversial. Here, we show that PDK1 is required for anchorage-independent and xenograft growth of breast cancer cells harboring either PI3KCA or KRAS mutations. In fact, PDK1 silencing leads to increased anoikis, reduced soft agar growth, and pronounced apoptosis inside tumors. Interestingly, these phenotypes are reverted by PDK1 wild-type but not kinase-dead mutant, suggesting a relevant role of PDK1 kinase activity, even if PDK1 is not relevant for Akt activation here. Indeed, the expression of constitutively active forms of Akt in PDK1 knockdown cells is unable to rescue the anchorage-independent growth. In addition, Akt down-regulation and pharmacological inhibition do not inhibit the effects of PDK1 overexpression. In summary, these results suggest that PDK1 may contribute to breast cancer, even in the absence of PI3K oncogenic mutations and through both Akt-dependent and Akt-independent mechanisms.
Previously it has been reported that caveolin-1 (cav-1) has antiapoptotic activities in prostate cancer cells and functions downstream of androgenic stimulation. In this study, we demonstrate that cav-1 overexpression significantly reduced thapsigargin (Tg)-stimulated apoptosis. Examination of the phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3-K)/Akt signaling cascade revealed higher activities of PDK1 and Akt but not PI3-K in cav-1-stimulated cells compared to control cells. We subsequently found that cav-1 interacts with and inhibits serine/threonine protein phosphatases PP1 and PP2A through scaffolding domain binding site interactions. Deletion of the cav-1 scaffolding domain significantly reduces phosphorylated Akt and cell viability compared with wild-type cav-1. Analysis of potential substrates for PP1 and PP2A revealed that cav-1-mediated inhibition of PP1 and PP2A leads to increased PDK1, Akt, and ERK1/2 activities. We demonstrate that increased Akt activities are largely responsible for cav-1-mediated cell survival using dominant-negative Akt mutants and specific inhibitors to MEK1/MEK and show that cav-1 increases the half-life of phosphorylated PDK1 and Akt after inhibition of PI3-K by LY294002. We further demonstrate that cav-1-stimulated Akt activities lead to increased phosphorylation of multiple Akt substrates, including GSK3, FKHR, and MDM2. In addition, overexpression of cav-1 significantly increases translocation of phosphorylated androgen receptor to nucleus. Our studies therefore reveal a novel mechanism of Akt activation in prostate cancer and potentially other malignancies.
Akt/PKB is a serine/threonine kinase that has attracted much attention because of its central role in regulating cell proliferation, survival, motility and angiogenesis. Activation of Akt in breast cancer portends aggressive tumour behaviour, resistance to hormone-, chemo-, and radiotherapy-induced apoptosis and it is correlated with decreased overall survival. Recent studies have identified novel tumor-specific substrates of Akt that may provide new diagnostic and prognostic markers and serve as therapeutic targets. This study was undertaken to identify pAkt-interacting proteins and to assess their biological roles in breast cancer cells.
We confirmed that one of the pAkt interacting proteins is the Elongation Factor EF1α. EF1α contains a putative Akt phosphorylation site, but is not phosphorylated by pAkt1 or pAkt2, suggesting that it may function as a modulator of pAkt activity. Indeed, downregulation of EF1α expression by siRNAs led to markedly decreased expression of pAkt1 and to less extent of pAkt2 and was associated with reduced proliferation, survival and invasion of HCC1937 cells. Proliferation and survival was further reduced by combining EF1α siRNAs with specific pAkt inhibitors whereas EF1α downregulation slightly attenuated the decreased invasion induced by Akt inhibitors.
We show here that EF1α is a pAkt-interacting protein which regulates pAkt levels. Since EF1α is often overexpressed in breast cancer, the consequences of EF1α increased levels for proliferation, survival and invasion will likely depend on the relative concentration of Akt1 and Akt2.
Transglutaminase 2 (TG2) and its phosphorylation have been consistently found to be upregulated in a number of cancer cell types. At the molecular level, TG2 has been associated with the activation of nuclear factor-kappa B (NF-κB), protein kinase B (PKB/Akt) and in the downregulation of phosphatase and tensin homologue deleted on chromosome 10 (PTEN). However, the underlying mechanism involved is not known. We have reported that protein kinase A (PKA) induced phosphorylation of TG2 at serine-216 (Ser216) regulates TG2 function and facilitates protein-protein interaction. However, the role of TG2 phosphorylation in the modulation of NF-κB, Akt and PTEN is not explored.
In this study we have investigated the effect of TG2 phosphorylation on NF-κB, Akt and PTEN using embryonic fibroblasts derived from TG2 null mice (MEFtg2-/-) overexpressing native TG2 or mutant-TG2 (m-TG2) lacking Ser216 phosphorylation site with and without dibutyryl cyclic-AMP (db-cAMP) stimulation. Functional consequences on cell cycle and cell motility were determined by fluorescence activated cell sorting (FACS) analysis and cell migration assay respectively.
PKA activation in TG2 overexpressing MEFtg2-/- cells resulted in an increased activation of NF-κB and Akt phosphorylation in comparison to empty vector transfected control cells as determined by the reporter-gene assay and immunoblot analysis respectively. These effects were not observed in MEFtg2-/- cells overexpressing m-TG2. Similarly, a significant downregulation of PTEN at both, the mRNA and protein levels were found in cells overexpressing TG2 in comparison to empty vector control and m-TG2 transfected cells. Furthermore, Akt activation correlated with the simultaneous activation of NF-κB and a decrease in PTEN suggesting that the facilitatory effect of TG2 on Akt activation occurs in a PTEN-dependent manner. Similar results were found with MCF-7 and T-47D breast cancer cells overexpressing TG2 and m-TG2 further supporting the role of TG2 phosphorylation in NF-κB activation and in the downregulation of PTEN.
Collectively, these data suggest that phosphorylation of TG2 at Ser216 plays a role in TG2 mediated activation of NF-κB, Akt and in the downregulation of PTEN. Blocking TG2 phosphorylation may provide a novel strategy to attenuate NF-κB activation and downregulation of PTEN in TG2 overexpressing cancers.
Protein kinase A; Mice embryonic fibroblast; Protein kinase B; Reporter-gene assay; FACS analysis; Real-time PCR
ErbB2, a member of the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) family, is overexpressed in 20% to 30% of human breast cancer cases and forms oncogenic signalling complexes when dimerised to ErbB3 or other EGFR family members.
We crossed mouse mammary tumour virus (MMTV)-myr-Akt1 transgenic mice (which express constitutively active Akt1 in the mammary gland) with MMTV-c-ErbB2 transgenic mice to evaluate the role of Akt1 activation in ErbB2-induced mammary carcinoma using immunoblot analysis, magnetic resonance spectroscopy and histological analyses.
Bitransgenic MMTV-c-ErbB2, MMTV-myr-Akt1 mice develop mammary tumours twice as fast as MMTV-c-ErbB2 mice. The bitransgenic tumours were less organised, had more mitotic figures and fewer apoptotic cells. However, many bitransgenic tumours displayed areas of extensive necrosis compared with tumours from MMTV-c-ErbB2 mice. The two tumour types demonstrate dramatically different expression and activation of EGFR family members, as well as different metabolic profiles. c-ErbB2 tumours demonstrate overexpression of EGFR, ErbB2, ErbB3 and ErbB4, and activation/phosphorylation of both ErbB2 and ErbB3, underscoring the importance of the entire EGFR family in ErbB2-induced tumourigenesis. Tumours from bitransgenic mice overexpress the myr-Akt1 and ErbB2 transgenes, but there was dramatically less overexpression and phosphorylation of ErbB3, diminished phosphorylation of ErbB2, decreased level of EGFR protein and undetectable ErbB4 protein. There was also an observable attenuation in a subset of tyrosine-phosphorylated secondary signalling molecules in the bitransgenic tumours compared with c-ErbB2 tumours, but Erk was activated/phosphorylated in both tumour types. Finally, the bitransgenic tumours were metabolically more active as indicated by increased glucose transporter 1 (GLUT1) expression, elevated lactate production and decreased intracellular glucose (suggesting increased glycolysis).
Expression of activated Akt1 in MMTV-c-ErbB2 mice accelerates tumourigenesis with a reduced requirement for signalling through the EGFR family, as well as a reduced requirement for a subset of downstream signaling molecules with a metabolic shift in the tumours from bitransgenic mice. The reduction in signalling downstream of ErbB2 when Akt is activated suggest a possible mechanism by which tumour cells can become resistant to ErbB2-targeted therapies, necessitating therapies that target oncogenic signalling events downstream of ErbB2.
Sustained activation of Akt kinase acts as a focal regulator to increase cell growth and survival, which cause tumorigenesis including breast cancer. Statins, potent inhibitors of 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl coenzyme A reductase, display anticancer activity. The molecular mechanisms by which statins block cancer cell growth are poorly understood. We demonstrate that in the tumors derived from MDA-MB-231 human breast cancer cell xenografts, simvastatin significantly inhibited phosphorylation of Akt with concomitant attenuation of expression of the anti-apoptotic protein BclXL. In many cancer cells, BclXL is a target of NFκB. Simvastatin inhibited the DNA binding and transcriptional activities of NF κ B resulting in marked reduction in transcription of BclXL. Signals transmitted by anti-neoplastic mechanism implanted in the cancer cells serve to obstruct the initial outgrowth of tumors. One such mechanism represents the action of the tumor suppressor protein PTEN, which negatively regulates Akt kinase activity. We provide the first evidence for significantly increased levels of PTEN in the tumors of simvastatin-administered mice. Importantly, simvastatin markedly prevented binding of NFκB to the two canonical recognition elements, NFRE-1 and NFRE-2 present in the PTEN promoter. Contrary to the transcriptional suppression of BclXL, simvastatin significantly increased the transcription of PTEN. Furthermore, expression of NFκ B p65 subunit inhibited transcription of PTEN, resulting in reduced protein expression, which leads to enhanced phosphorylation of Akt. Taken together, our data present a novel bifaceted mechanism where simvastatin acts on a nodal transcription factor NFκ B, which attenuates the expression of anti-apoptotic BclXL and simultaneously derepresses the expression of anti-proliferative/proapoptotic tumor suppressor PTEN to prevent breast cancer cell growth.
Statin; Breast tumor; BclXL; Akt kinase
Estrogen receptor α-positive (ER+) breast cancers adapt to hormone deprivation and acquire resistance to antiestrogen therapies. Upon acquisition of hormone independence, ER+ breast cancer cells increase their dependence on the phosphatidylinositol-3 kinase (PI3K)/AKT pathway. We examined the effects of AKT inhibition and its compensatory upregulation of insulin-like growth factor (IGF)-I/InsR signaling in ER+ breast cancer cells with acquired resistance to estrogen deprivation.
Inhibition of AKT using the catalytic inhibitor AZD5363 was examined in four ER+ breast cancer cell lines resistant to long-term estrogen deprivation (LTED) by western blotting and proliferation assays. Feedback upregulation and activation of receptor tyrosine kinases (RTKs) was examined by western blotting, real-time qPCR, ELISAs, membrane localization of AKT PH-GFP by immunofluorescence and phospho-RTK arrays. For studies in vivo, athymic mice with MCF-7 xenografts were treated with AZD5363 and fulvestrant with either the ATP-competitive IGF-IR/InsR inhibitor AZD9362 or the fibroblast growth factor receptor (FGFR) inhibitor AZD4547.
Treatment with AZD5363 reduced phosphorylation of the AKT/mTOR substrates PRAS40, GSK3α/β and S6K while inducing hyperphosphorylation of AKT at T308 and S473. Inhibition of AKT with AZD5363 suppressed growth of three of four ER+ LTED lines and prevented emergence of hormone-independent MCF-7, ZR75-1 and MDA-361 cells. AZD5363 suppressed growth of MCF-7 xenografts in ovariectomized mice and a patient-derived luminal B xenograft unresponsive to tamoxifen or fulvestrant. Combined treatment with AZD5363 and fulvestrant suppressed MCF-7 xenograft growth better than either drug alone. Inhibition of AKT with AZD5363 resulted in upregulation and activation of RTKs, including IGF-IR and InsR, upregulation of FoxO3a and ERα mRNAs as well as FoxO- and ER-dependent transcription of IGF-I and IGF-II ligands. Inhibition of IGF-IR/InsR or PI3K abrogated AKT PH-GFP membrane localization and T308 P-AKT following treatment with AZD5363. Treatment with IGFBP-3 blocked AZD5363-induced P-IGF-IR/InsR and T308 P-AKT, suggesting that receptor phosphorylation was dependent on increased autocrine ligands. Finally, treatment with the dual IGF-IR/InsR inhibitor AZD9362 enhanced the anti-tumor effect of AZD5363 in MCF-7/LTED cells and MCF-7 xenografts in ovariectomized mice devoid of estrogen supplementation.
These data suggest combinations of AKT and IGF-IR/InsR inhibitors would be an effective treatment strategy against hormone-independent ER+ breast cancer.
AKT; ER+ breast cancer; endocrine resistance; IGF-IR; InsR
Objective: Overexpression of the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) is associated with the malignant phenotype in many cancers including ovarian cancer, which leads to increased cell proliferation and survival. In spite of emerging EGFR inhibitors as a potentially useful agent, they are largely ineffective in patients with advanced or recurrent ovarian cancers. Since Akt as a key downstream factor of EGFR is highly activated in some high grade serous ovarian tumors, the augmented Akt activation may attribute to irregular EGFR-mediated signaling observed in ovarian cancer. Here we investigated the differential effect of Akt on the EGF-induced cell viability in a panel of ovarian cancer cell lines.
Methods: Cellular viability assay and western blot analysis were used to measure cell viability and expression levels of proteins, respectively. Knockdown of Akt was achieved with siRNA and stable transfection of expression vectors was performed.
Results: Cellular viability increased in OVCAR-3 ovarian cancer cells exposed to EGF, but little to no difference was observed in the 5 other ovarian cancer cells including SKOV-3 cells despite of the expression of EGFR. In OVCAR-3 cells, EGF activated Erk and Akt, but an Erk inhibitor had no impact on cellular viability. On the other hand, the EGFR and PI3K inhibitors decreased EGF-induced cellular viability, indicating the involvement of Akt signaling. Although EGF activated Erk in SKOV-3 cells, the Akt activation was very weak as compared to OVCAR-3 cells. Furthermore, we observed a different expression of Akt isoforms: Akt1 was constitutively expressed in all tested ovarian cancer cells, while Akt3 was little expressed. Interestingly, Akt2 was highly expressed in OVCAR-3 cells. Knockdown of Akt2 blocked EGF-induced OVCAR-3 cell viability whereas knockdown for Akt1 and Erk1/2 had no significant effect. Stable transfection of Akt2 into SKOV-3 cells phosphorylated more Akt and enhanced cell viability in response to EGF.
Conclusions: Akt2-dependent signaling appears to play an important role in EGFR-mediated cellular viability in ovarian cancer and targeting specific Akt isoform may provide a potential therapeutic approach for EGFR-expressing ovarian cancers.
EGFR; Akt; Erk; cell viability; ovarian cancer.
Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin that includes isomers of tocopherols and tocotrienols which are known for their antioxidant properties. Tocopherols are the predominant form encountered in the diet and through supplementation, and have garnered interest for their potential cancer therapeutic and chemopreventive effects, which include the dephosphorylation of Akt, a serine/threonine kinase that plays a pivotal role in important cellular processes, such as cell growth, survival, metabolism and motility. Full catalytic activation of Akt requires phosphorylation at both Thr308 and Ser473. Dephosphorylation of Ser473 drastically reduces Akt catalytic activity and the number of downstream substrates it can regulate. The mechanism by which α- and γ-tocopherol facilitate the selective dephosphorylation of the kinase Akt at Ser473 was investigated. We showed that this site-specific Akt dephosphorylation was mediated through the pleckstrin homology (PH) domain-dependent recruitment to the plasma membrane of Akt and PHLPP1 (PH domain leucine-rich repeat protein phosphatase, isoform 1), a phosphatase that dephosphorylates Akt at Ser473. The ability of α- and γ-tocopherol to induce PHLPP-mediated Akt inhibition established PHLPP as a “druggable” target. We structurally optimized these tocopherols to obtain derivatives with greater in vitro potency and in vivo tumor-suppressive activity in two prostate xenograft tumor models. Binding affinities for the PH domains of Akt and PHLPP1 were greater than for other PH domain-containing proteins, which may underlie the preferential membrane recruitment of these proteins. Molecular modeling revealed the structural determinants of the interaction with the PH domain of Akt that may inform strategies for continued structural optimization. These findings describe a mechanism by which tocopherols facilitate the dephosphorylation of Akt at Ser473, thereby providing insights into the mode of antitumor action of tocopherols and a rationale for the translational development of tocopherols into novel PH domain-targeted Akt inhibitors.
The function of insulin receptor substrate-1 (IRS-1) is regulated by both tyrosine and serine/threonine phosphorylation. Phosphorylation of some serine/threonine residues in IRS-1 dampens insulin signaling, whereas phosphorylation of other serine/threonine residues enhances insulin signaling. Phosphorylation of human IRS-1 at Ser629 was increased by insulin in Chinese hamster ovary cells expressing the insulin receptor (1.26 ± 0.09-fold; P < 0.05) and L6 cells (1.35 ± 0.29-fold; P < 0.05) expressing human IRS-1. Sequence analysis surrounding Ser629 revealed conformity to the consensus phosphorylation sequence recognized by Akt. Phosphorylation of IRS-1 at Ser629 in cells was decreased upon treatment with either an Akt inhibitor or by coexpression with kinase dead Akt, whereas Ser629 phosphorylation was increased by coexpression with constitutively active Akt. In addition, Ser629 of IRS-1 is directly phosphorylated by Akt in vitro. In cells, preventing phosphorylation of Ser629 by a Ser629Ala mutation resulted in increased phosphorylation of Ser636, a known negative regulator of IRS-1, without affecting phosphorylation of Tyr632 or Ser616. Cells expressing the Ser629Ala mutation, along with increased Ser636 phosphorylation, had decreased insulin-stimulated association of the p85 regulatory subunit of phosphatidylinositol 3′-kinase with IRS-1 and decreased phosphorylation of Akt at Ser473. Finally, in vitro phosphorylation of a Ser629-containing IRS-1 fragment with Akt reduces the subsequent ability of ERK to phosphorylate Ser636/639. These results suggest that a feed-forward mechanism may exist whereby insulin activation of Akt leads to phosphorylation of IRS-1 at Ser629, resulting in decreased phosphorylation of IRS-1 at Ser636 and enhanced downstream signaling. Understanding the complex phosphorylation patterns of IRS-1 is crucial to elucidating the factors contributing to insulin resistance and, ultimately, the pathogenesis of type 2 diabetes.
Melanoma is highly metastatic and resistant to chemotherapeutic drugs. Our previous studies have demonstrated that caffeic acid phenethyl ester (CAPE) suppresses the growth of melanoma cells and induces reactive oxygen species generation. However, the exact mechanism of the growth suppressive effects of CAPE was not clear. Here, we determined the potential mechanism of CAPE against melanoma in vivo and in vitro. Administration of 10 mg/kg/day CAPE substantially suppressed the growth of B16F0 tumor xenografts in C57BL/6 mice. Tumors from CAPE-treated mice showed reduced phosphorylation of phosphoinositide 3-kinase, AKT, mammalian target of rapamycin and protein level of X-linked inhibitor of apoptosis protein (XIAP) and enhanced the cleavage of caspase-3 and poly (ADP ribose) polymerase. In order to confirm the in vivo observations, melanoma cells were treated with CAPE. CAPE treatment suppressed the activating phosphorylation of phosphoinositide 3-kinase at Tyr 458, phosphoinositide-dependent kinase-1 at Ser 241, mammalian target of rapamycin at Ser 2448 and AKT at Ser 473 in B16F0 and SK-MEL-28 cells in a concentration and time-dependent study. Furthermore, the expression of XIAP, survivin and BCL-2 was downregulated by CAPE treatment in both cell lines. Significant apoptosis was observed by CAPE treatment as indicated by cleavage of caspase-3 and poly (ADP ribose) polymerase. AKT kinase activity was inhibited by CAPE in a concentration-dependent manner. CAPE treatment increased the nuclear translocation of XIAP, indicating increased apoptosis in melanoma cells. To confirm the involvement of reactive oxygen species in the inhibition of AKT/XIAP pathway, cells were treated with antioxidant N-acetyl-cysteine (NAC) prior to CAPE treatment. Our results indicate that NAC blocked CAPE-mediated AKT/XIAP inhibition and protected the cells from apoptosis. Because AKT regulates XIAP, their interaction was examined by immunoprecipitation studies. Our results show that CAPE treatment decreased the interaction of AKT with XIAP. To establish the involvement of AKT in the apoptosis-inducing effects of CAPE, cells were transfected with AKT. Our results revealed that AKT overexpression attenuated the decrease in XIAP and significantly blocked CAPE-mediated apoptosis. Similarly, overexpression of XIAP further decreased CAPE-induced apoptosis. Taken together, our results suggest that CAPE suppresses phosphoinositide 3-kinase/AKT/XIAP pathway leading to apoptosis in melanoma tumor cells in vitro and in vivo.
The molecular mechanisms by which arsenic (As3+) causes human cancers remain to be fully elucidated. Enhancer of zeste homolog 2 (EZH2) is the catalytic subunit of polycomb-repressive complexes 2 (PRC2) that promotes trimethylation of lysine 27 of histone H3, leading to altered expression of tumor suppressors or oncogenes. In the present study, we determined the effect of As3+ on EZH2 phosphorylation and the signaling pathways important for As3+-induced EZH2 phosphorylation in human bronchial epithelial cell line BEAS-2B. The involvement of kinases in As3+-induced EZH2 phosphorylation was validated by siRNA-based gene silencing. The data showed that As3+ can induce phosphorylation of EZH2 at serine 21 in human bronchial epithelial cells and that the phosphorylation of EZH2 requires an As3+-activated signaling cascade from JNK and STAT3 to Akt. Transfection of the cells with siRNA specific for JNK1 revealed that JNK silencing reduced serine727 phosphorylation of STAT3, Akt activation and EZH2 phosphorylation, suggesting that JNK is the upstream kinase involved in As3+-induced EZH2 phosphorylation. Because As3+ is capable of inducing miRNA-21 (miR-21), a STAT3-regulated miRNA that represses protein translation of PTEN or Spry2, we also tested the role of STAT3 and miR-21 in As3+-induced EZH2 phosphorylation. Ectopic overexpression of miR-21 promoted Akt activation and phosphorylation of EZH2, whereas inhibiting miR-21 by transfecting the cells with anti-miR-21 inhibited Akt activation and EZH2 phosphorylation. Taken together, these results demonstrate a contribution of the JNK, STAT3 and Akt signaling axis to As3+-induced EZH2 phosphorylation. Importantly, these findings may reveal new molecular mechanisms underlying As3+-induced carcinogenesis.
JNK; Stat3; Akt; EZH2; arsenic
Cytochrome P450 (CYP) 4Z1, a novel CYP4 family member, is over-expressed in human mammary carcinoma and associated with high-grade tumors and poor prognosis. However, the precise role of CYP4Z1 in tumor progression is unknown. Here, we demonstrate that CYP4Z1 overexpression promotes tumor angiogenesis and growth in breast cancer. Stable expression of CYP4Z1 in T47D and BT-474 human breast cancer cells significantly increased mRNA expression and production of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF)-A, and decreased mRNA levels and secretion of tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinase-2 (TIMP-2), without affecting cell proliferation and anchorage-independent cell growth in vitro. Notably, the conditioned medium from CYP4Z1-expressing cells enhanced proliferation, migration and tube formation of human umbilical vein endothelial cells, and promoted angiogenesis in the zebrafish embryo and chorioallantoic membrane of the chick embryo. In addition, there were lower levels of myristic acid and lauric acid, and higher contents of 20-hydroxyeicosatetraenoic acid (20-HETE) in CYP4Z1-expressing T47D cells compared with vector control. CYP4Z1 overexpression significantly increased tumor weight and microvessel density by 2.6-fold and 1.9-fold in human tumor xenograft models, respectively. Moreover, CYP4Z1 transfection increased the phosphorylation of ERK1/2 and PI3K/Akt, while PI3K or ERK inhibitors and siRNA silencing reversed CYP4Z1-mediated changes in VEGF-A and TIMP-2 expression. Conversely, HET0016, an inhibitor of the CYP4 family, potently inhibited the tumor-induced angiogenesis with associated changes in the intracellular levels of myristic acid, lauric acid and 20-HETE. Collectively, these data suggest that increased CYP4Z1 expression promotes tumor angiogenesis and growth in breast cancer partly via PI3K/Akt and ERK1/2 activation.
Cytochrome P450; Angiogenesis; VEGF-A; TIMP-2; Breast cancer
Cell adhesion is a critical step in cancer metastasis, activated by extracellular forces such as pressure and shear. Reducing AKT1, but not AKT2, ablates the increase in cancer cell adhesion associated with 15 mmHg increased extracellular pressure. To identify the determinants of this AKT isoform specificity, we exchanged the pleckstrin homology (PH) domains and/or hinge regions of AKT1 and AKT2. Wild type isoforms or these chimeras were overexpressed in Caco-2 cells in the absence or presence of isoform-specific siRNA to suppress endogenous AKT1. Pressure-induced AKT translocation and phosphorylation to the membrane were compared, along with the stimulation of cell adhesion by pressure. Pressure stimulated translocation of AKT1, but not AKT2 to the plasma membrane. Among our chimeras, only the chimeric AKT2 (chimera2), in which both the AKT2 PH domain and hinge region had been replaced by those of AKT1, translocated to the membrane in response to pressure. Similarly, only chimera2 rescued the function of AKT1 in mediating pressure-stimulated adhesion after endogenous AKT1 had been reduced. Pressure also promoted phosphorylation of AKT1 but not AKT2, and expression of a non-phosphorylatable double point mutant prevented pressure-stimulated adhesion. Among the chimeras, pressure promoted only chimera2 phosphorylation. These results identify the AKT1 PH domain and hinge region as functional domains which jointly permit AKT1 translocation and phosphorylation in response to extracellular pressure and distinguish determine the specificity of AKT1 in mediating the effects of extracellular pressure on cancer cell adhesion. These may be useful targets for interventions to inhibit metastasis.
adhesion; AKT isoform; AKT1; AKT2; pressure; PH domain; hinge region
Activation of the Hedgehog (Hh) signaling pathway has been implicated in a variety of malignancies including neuroblastoma. Expression of Gli1, a downstream effector of Hh, correlates with a favorable prognosis in patients with neuroblastoma. Moreover, Gli1 overexpression reduces mitotic index and induces transcription of genes involved in the differentiation of neuroblastoma cells; however, much remains unknown regarding the regulation of Gli1 transcriptional activity. Here, we report a novel negative regulation of Gli1 transcriptional activity by PI3K/AKT2 signal transduction pathway. Constitutively active PI3K subunit, p110α, inhibited Gli1 transcriptional activity in neuroblastoma cells, whereas, overexpression of an inactive form of PI3K subunit, p85, enhanced its activity. Specifically, the AKT2 isoform inhibited Gli1 luciferase activity. Silencing AKT2 using siRNA increased Gli1 transcriptional activity and conversely, overexpression of constitutively active AKT2 (myr-AKT2) decreased Gli1 transcriptional activity. Furthermore, Gli1 overexpression-mediated decrease in anchorage-independent growth was rescued by AKT2 overexpression. We also demonstrated that AKT2 overexpression regulates the nuclear-cytoplasmic distribution of exogenous Gli1 protein in neuroblastoma cells by relieving a GSK3β-mediated destabilization of SUFU, a negative regulator of Gli1 nuclear translocation. Inhibition of nuclear Gli1 accumulation may explain for the suppression of the tumor-suppressive function of Gli1. Collectively, our findings suggest an important role of Gli1 as a tumor suppressor in neuroblastoma, and offer a mechanism by which AKT2 regulates the subcellular localization, and in turn, inhibits the tumor-suppressive function of Gli1 in neuroblastoma.
Gli1; AKT2; Neuroblastoma; SUFU
Germ line mutations in the breast cancer susceptibility gene BRCA1 account for the increased risk of early onset of familial breast cancer, whereas overexpression of the ErbB family of receptor tyrosine kinases has been linked to the development of nonfamilial or sporadic breast cancer. To analyze whether there is a link between these two regulatory molecules, we studied the effects of ErbB-2 activation by heregulin (HRG) on BRCA1 function. It was previously demonstrated that HRG induced the phosphorylation of BRCA1, which was mediated by the phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K)/Akt pathway. Since altered interaction between cells and the surrounding extracellular matrix (ECM) is a common feature in a variety of tumors and since ECM modulates intracellular signaling, we hypothesized that ECM may affect the expression and HRG-dependent phosphorylation of BRCA1. Following stimulation by HRG, a strong increase in [3H]thymidine incorporation was observed in human T47D breast cancer cells seeded on plastic (PL). When T47D cells were seeded on laminin (LAM) or Matrigel, HRG induced a significantly higher proliferation than it did in cells seeded on PL. T47D cells seeded on poly-l-lysine had an abrogated mitogenic response, indicating the involvement of integrins in this process. HRG treatment induced a transient phosphorylation of BRCA1 that was enhanced in T47D cells grown on LAM. LAM-enhanced BRCA1 phosphorylation was mediated through α6 integrin upon HRG stimulation. Accordingly, T47D cells grown on LAM had the greatest increase in ErbB-2 activation, PI3K activity, and phosphorylation of Akt. A similar pattern of BRCA1 mRNA expression was observed when T47D cells were seeded on PL, LAM, or COL4. There was a significant decrease in the steady state of the BRCA1 mRNA level on both the LAM and COL4 matrices compared to that for cells seeded on PL. In addition, HRG stimulation caused a significant decrease in BRCA1 mRNA expression that was dependent on protein synthesis. Pretreatment with both the calpain inhibitor ALLN (N-acetyl-Leu-Leu-norleucinal) and the proteosome inhibitor lactacystin inhibited the HRG-induced down-regulation of BRCA1 mRNA expression. Likewise, there was a strong decrease in the protein level of BRCA1 in T47D cells 4 h after treatment with HRG compared to its level in control nontreated T47D cells. Pretreatment with the proteosome inhibitors ALLN, lactacystin, and PSI [N-benzyloxycarbonyl-Ile-Glu-(O-t-butyl)-Ala-leucinal] inhibited also the HRG-induced down-regulation of BRCA1 protein in breast cancer cells. Interestingly, BRCA1 mRNA expression in HCC-1937 breast cancer cells, which express C-terminally truncated BRCA1, was not affected by either LAM or CL4. No phosphorylation of BRCA1 from HCC-1937 cells was observed in response to HRG. While Cdk4 phosphorylated wild-type BRCA1 in response to HRG in T47D cells, Cdk4 failed to phosphorylate the truncated form of BRCA1 in HCC-1937 cells. Furthermore, overexpression of wild-type BRCA1 in HCC-1937 cells resulted in the phosphorylation of BRCA1 and decreased BRCA1 expression upon HRG stimulation while overexpression of truncated BRCA1 in T47D cells resulted in a lack of BRCA1 phosphorylation and restoration of BRCA1 expression. These findings suggest that ECM enhances HRG-dependent BRCA1 phosphorylation and that ECM and HRG down-regulate BRCA1 expression in breast cancer cells. Furthermore, ECM suppresses BRCA1 expression through the C terminus of BRCA1.
VAPB (VAMP- associated protein B) is an ER protein that regulates multiple biological functions. Although aberrant expression of VAPB is associated with breast cancer, its function in tumor cells is poorly understood. In this report, we provide evidence that VAPB regulates breast tumor cell proliferation and AKT activation. VAPB protein expression is elevated in primary and metastatic tumor specimens, and VAPB mRNA expression levels correlated negatively with patient survival in two large breast tumor datasets. Overexpression of VAPB in mammary epithelial cells increased cell growth, whereas VAPB knockdown in tumor cells inhibited cell proliferation in vitro and suppressed tumor growth in orthotopic mammary gland allografts. The growth regulation of mammary tumor cells controlled by VAPB appears to be mediated, at least in part, by modulation of AKT activity. Overexpression of VAPB in MCF10A-HER2 cells enhances phosphorylation of AKT. In contrast, knockdown of VAPB in MMTV-Neu tumor cells inhibited pAKT levels. Pharmacological inhibition of AKT significantly reduced three-dimensional spheroid growth induced by VAPB. Collectively, the genetic, functional and mechanistic analyses suggest a role of VAPB in tumor promotion in human breast cancer.
Ansamycin antibiotics, such as 17-allylaminogeldanamycin (17-AAG), bind to Hsp90 and regulate its function, resulting in the proteasomal degradation of a subset of signaling proteins that require Hsp90 for conformational maturation. HER2 is a very sensitive target of these drugs. Ansamycins cause RB-dependent G1 arrest that is associated with loss of D-cyclins via a PI3 kinase, Akt dependent pathway. Downregulation of D-cyclin was due, in part, to loss of Akt expression in response to drug. Moreover, in HER2 overexpressing breast cancer cells, 17-AAG caused rapid inhibition of Akt activity prior to any change in Akt protein. Ansamycins caused rapid degradation of HER2 and a concomitant loss in HER3 associated PI3 kinase activity. This led to a loss of Akt activity, dephosphorylation of Akt substrates, and loss of D-cyclin expression. Introduction into cells of a constitutively membrane bound form of PI3 kinase prevented the effects of the drug on Akt activity and D-cyclins. Thus, in breast cancer cells with high HER2, Akt activation by HER2/HER3 heterodimers is required for D-cyclin expression. In murine xenograft models, non-toxic doses of 17-AAG markedly reduced the expression of HER2 and phosphorylation of Akt and inhibited tumor growth. Thus, pharmacological inhibition of Akt activation is achievable with ansamycins and may be useful for the treatment of HER2 driven tumors.
Akt; HER2; cyclin D; ansamycins
Inhibition of mTOR signaling by rapamycin has been demonstrated to activate ERK1/2 and Akt in various types of cancer cells, which contributes to rapamycin resistance. However, the downstream effect of rapamycin-activated ERKs and Akt on survival or death substrate(s) remains unclear. We discovered that treatment of human lung cancer cells with rapamycin results in enhanced phosphorylation of Bad at serine (S) 112 and S136 but not S155 in association with activation of ERK1/2 and Akt. A higher level of Bad phosphorylation was observed in rapamycin-resistant cells compared to parental rapamycin-sensitive cells. Thus, Bad phosphorylation may contribute to rapamycin resistance. Mechanistically, rapamycin promotes Bad accumulation in the cytosol, enhances Bad/14-3-3 interaction and reduces Bad/Bcl-XL binding. Rapamycin-induced Bad phosphorylation promotes its ubiquitination and degradation, with a significant reduction of its half-life (i.e. from 53.3 h to 37.5 h). Inhibition of MEK/ERK by PD98059 or depletion of Akt by RNA interference blocks rapamycin-induced Bad phosphorylation at S112 or S136, respectively. Simultaneous blockage of S112 and S136 phosphorylation of Bad by PD98059 and silencing of Akt significantly enhances rapamycin-induced growth inhibition in vitro and synergistically increases the anti-tumor efficacy of rapamycin in lung cancer xenografts. Intriguingly, either suppression of Bad phosphorylation at S112 and S136 sites or expression of the non-phosphorylatable Bad mutant (S112A/S136A) can reverse rapamycin resistance. These findings uncover a novel mechanism of rapamycin resistance, which may promote the development of new strategies for overcoming rapamycin resistance by manipulating Bad phosphorylation at S112 and S136 in human lung cancer.
Herceptin (trastuzumab) is a humanized monoclonal antibody that is approved for the treatment of metastatic breast cancer patients whose tumors overexpress Her2 (erbB2/neu). Up to 70% of Her2-positive breast cancers demonstrate a response to Herceptin-based therapies, but resistance almost inevitably arises within a year of the initial response. To help understand the mechanism of Herceptin resistance, we isolated clonal variants of Her2-positive BT474 human breast cancer cells (BT/HerR) that are highly resistant to Herceptin. These cell lines exhibit sustained PI3K/Akt signaling as an essential component of Herceptin-resistant proliferation. Several genes in the protein kinase A (PKA) signaling network have altered expression in BT/HerR cells, including PPP1R1B, which encodes a 32 kDa protein known as Darpp-32 and its amino-terminal truncated variant, t-Darpp. The purpose of the current work was to determine the role of Darpp-32 and t-Darpp in Herceptin resistance.
Methodology and Results
We determined expression of Darpp-32 and t-Darpp in BT/HerR cells selected for resistance to Herceptin. Subsequently, cDNAs encoding the two isoforms of Darpp-32 were transfected, separately and together, into Her2-positive SK-Br-3 breast cancer cells. Transfected cells were tested for resistance to Herceptin and Herceptin-mediated dephosphorylation of Akt. DNA binding activity by the cAMP response element binding protein (CREB) was also measured. We found that BT/HerR cells overexpressed t-Darpp but not Darpp-32. Moreover, t-Darpp overexpression in SK-Br-3 cells was sufficient for conferring resistance to Herceptin and Herceptin-mediated dephosphorylation of Akt. Darpp-32 co-expression reversed t-Darpp's effects on Herceptin resistance and Akt phosphorylation. t-Darpp overexpression led to increased CREB binding activity, which was also reversible by Darpp-32.
t-Darpp and Darpp-32 appear to have antagonistic effects on Herceptin resistance. We present a unified model by which these effects might be mediated via the PKA regulatory network.