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.
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.
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.
Profilin-1 (Pfn1), a ubiquitously expressed actin-binding protein, has been regarded as a tumor-suppressor molecule for breast cancer. Since AKT signaling impacts cell survival and proliferation, in this study we investigated whether AKT activation in breast cancer cells is sensitive to perturbation of Pfn1 expression. We found that even a moderate overexpression of Pfn1 leads to a significant reduction in phosphorylation of AKT in MDA-MB-231 breast cancer cells. We further demonstrated that Pfn1 over-expression in MDA-MB-231 cells is associated with a significant reduction in the level of the phosphoinositide regulator of AKT, PIP3, and impaired membrane translocation of AKT that is required for AKT activation, in response to EGF stimulation. Interestingly, Pfn1-overexpressing cells showed post-transcriptional upregulation of PTEN. Furthermore, when PTEN expression was silenced, AKT phosphorylation was rescued, suggesting PTEN upregulation is responsible for Pfn1-dependent attenuation of AKT activation in MDA-MB-231 cells. Pfn1 overexpression induced PTEN upregulation and reduced AKT activation were also reproducible features of BT474 breast cancer cells. These findings may provide mechanistic insights underlying at least some of the tumor-suppressive properties of Pfn1.
Profilin-1; breast cancer; PIP3; AKT; PTEN; MDA-MB-231; BT-474
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.
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.
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.
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
Growth factor-induced activation of Akt occursin the majority of human breast cancer cell lines resulting in a variety of cellular outcomes, including suppression of apoptosis and enhanced survival. We demonstrate that epidermal growth factor (EGF)-initiated activation of Akt is mediated by the ubiquitous calcium sensing molecule, calmodulin, in the majority of human breast cancer cell lines. Specifically, in estrogen receptor (ER)-negative, but not ER-positive, breast cancer cells, Akt activation is abolished by treatment with the calmodulin antagonist, W-7. Suppression of calmodulin expression by siRNAs against all three calmodulin genes in c-Myc-overexpressing mouse mammary carcinoma cells results in significant inhibition of EGF-induced Akt activation. Additionally, transient expression of constitutively active Akt (Myr-Akt) can overcome W-7-mediated suppression of Akt activation. These results confirm the involvement of calmodulin in the Akt pathway. The calmodulin independence of EGF-initiated Akt signaling in some cells was not explained by calmodulin expression level. Additionally, it was not explained by ER status or activation, since removal of estrogen and ablation of the ER did not convert the ERpositive, W-7 insensitive, MCF-7 cell line to calmodulin dependent signaling. However, forced overexpression of either epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) or ErbB2 did partially restore calmodulin dependent EGF-stimulated Akt activation. This is consistent with observation that W-7 sensitive cells tend to be estrogen independent and express high levels of EGFR family members. In an attempt to address how calmodulin is regulating Akt activity, we looked at localization of fluorescently tagged Akt and calmodulin in MCF-7 and SK-BR-3 cells. We found that both Akt and calmodulin translocate to the membrane after EGFstimulation, and this translocation to the same sub-cellular compartment is inhibited by the calmodulin inhibitor W-7. Thus, calmodulin may be regulating Akt activity by modulating its sub-cellular location and is a novel target in the poor prognosis, ER-negative subset of breast cancers.
Akt; Calmodulin; Estrogen receptor; EGFR; ErbB2
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
Epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) is an essential step for tumor progression, although the mechanisms driving EMT are still not fully understood. In an effort to investigate these mechanisms, we observed that heregulin-mediated activation of HER2, or HER2 overexpression, resulted in EMT, which is accompanied with increased expression of a known EMT regulator Slug, but not TWIST or Snail. We then investigated how HER2 induced Slug expression and found, for the first time, that there are four consensus HSF Sequence-binding Elements (HSEs), the binding sites for heat shock factor-1 (HSF-1), located in the Slug promoter. HSF-1 bound to and transactivated the Slug promoter independent of heat shock, leading to Slug expression in breast cancer cells. Mutation of the putative HSEs ablated Slug transcriptional activation induced by heregulin or HSF-1 overexpression. Knockdown of HSF-1 expression by siRNA reduced Slug expression and heregulin-induced EMT. The positive association between HSF-1 and Slug was confirmed by immunohistochemical staining of a cohort of 100 invasive breast carcinoma specimens. While investigating how HER2 activated HSF-1 independent of heat shock, we observed that HER2 activation resulted in concurrent phosphorylation of Akt and HSF-1. We then observed, also for the first time, that Akt directly interacted with HSF-1 and phosphorylated HSF-1 at S326. Inhibition of Akt using siRNA, dominant-negative Akt mutant, or small molecule inhibitors prevented heregulin-induced HSF-1 activation and Slug expression. Conversely, constitutively active Akt induced HSF-1 phosphorylation and Slug expression. HSF-1 knockdown reduced the ability of Akt to induce Slug expression, indicating an essential that HSF-1 plays in Akt-induced Slug upregulation. Together, our study uncovered the existence of a novel Akt-HSF-1 signaling axis that leads to Slug upregulation and EMT, and potentially contributes to progression of HER2-positive breast cancer.
Slug; EMT; Akt; HSF-1; HER2; gene regulation; phosphorylation; cancer
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.
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
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.
The Y-box protein MSY3/Csda represses myogenin transcription in skeletal muscle by binding a highly conserved cis-acting DNA element located just upstream of the myogenin minimal promoter (myogHCE). It is not known how this MSY3 activity is controlled in skeletal muscle. In this study, we provide multiple lines of evidence showing that the post-translational phosphorylation of MSY3 by Akt kinase modulates the MSY3 repression of myogenin.
Skeletal muscle and myogenic C2C12 cells were used to study the effects of MSY3 phosphorylation in vivo and in vitro on its sub-cellular localization and activity, by blocking the IGF1/PI3K/Akt pathway, by Akt depletion and over-expression, and by mutating potential MSY3 phosphorylation sites.
We observed that, as skeletal muscle progressed from perinatal to postnatal and adult developmental stages, MSY3 protein became gradually dephosphorylated and accumulated in the nucleus. This correlated well with the reduction of phosphorylated active Akt. In C2C12 myogenic cells, blocking the IGF1/PI3K/Akt pathway using LY294002 inhibitor reduced MSY3 phosphorylation levels resulting in its accumulation in the nuclei. Knocking down Akt expression increased the amount of dephosphorylated MSY3 and reduced myogenin expression and muscle differentiation. MSY3 phosphorylation by Akt in vitro impaired its binding at the MyogHCE element, while blocking Akt increased MSY3 binding activity. While Akt over-expression rescued myogenin expression in MSY3 overexpressing myogenic cells, ablation of the Akt substrate, (Ser126 located in the MSY3 cold shock domain) promoted MSY3 accumulation in the nucleus and abolished this rescue. Furthermore, forced expression of Akt in adult skeletal muscle induced MSY3 phosphorylation and myogenin derepression.
These results support the hypothesis that MSY3 phosphorylation by Akt interferes with MSY3 repression of myogenin circuit activity during muscle development. This study highlights a previously undescribed Akt-mediated signaling pathway involved in the repression of myogenin expression in myogenic cells and in mature muscle. Given the significance of myogenin regulation in adult muscle, the Akt/MSY3/myogenin regulatory circuit is a potential therapeutic target to counteract muscle degenerative disease.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13395-015-0043-9) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
MSY3; Csda; Transcription factor; Akt; Myogenin; Muscle differentiation; Postnatal muscle
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
The serine/threonine kinase Akt, or protein kinase B, has recently been a focus of interest because of its activity to inhibit apoptosis. It mediates cell survival by acting as a transducer of signals from growth factor receptors that activate phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase.
We analysed the expression of the isoforms Akt1 and Akt2 as well as phosphorylated Akt (pAkt) by immunohistochemistry in frozen tumour samples from 280 postmenopausal patients who participated in a randomised trial comparing cyclophosphamide–methotrexate–5-fluorouracil chemotherapy and postoperative radiotherapy. The patients were simultaneously randomised to tamoxifen or to no endocrine treatment.
Marked staining was found in 24% of the tumours for Akt1, but in only 4% for Akt2. A low frequency of Akt2-positive cells (1–10%) was observed in another 26% of the tumours. pAkt was significantly associated with both Akt1 and Akt2 expression. Overexpression of erbB2 correlated significantly with pAkt (P = 0.0028). The benefit from tamoxifen was analysed in oestrogen receptor (ER)-positive patients. Patients with a negative status of Akt (no overexpression of Akt1, Akt2 or pAkt) showed significant benefit from tamoxifen. The relative rate of distant recurrence, with versus without tamoxifen, was 0.44 (95% confidence interval [CI], 0.25–0.79) for ER+/Akt1- patients, while it was 0.72 (95% CI, 0.34–1.53) for ER+/Akt1+ patients. The difference in rate ratio did not reach statistical significance. The rate of locoregional recurrence was significantly decreased with radiotherapy versus chemotherapy for Akt-negative patients (rate ratio, 0.23; 95% CI, 0.08–0.67; P = 0.0074), while no benefit was evident for the Akt-positive subgroup (rate ratio, 0.77; 95% CI, 0.31–1.9; P = 0.58). The interaction between Akt and the efficacy of radiotherapy was significant in multivariate analysis (P = 0.042).
Activation of the Akt pathway is correlated with erbB2 overexpression in breast cancer. The results suggest that Akt may predict the local control benefit from radiotherapy.
erbB2; HER-2/neu; protein kinase B; radiotherapy; tamoxifen; treatment outcome
PDZ domain containing 1 (PDZK1) is a scaffold protein that plays a role in the fate of several proteins. Estrogen can induce PDZK1 gene expression; however, our recent report showed that PDZK1 expression in the breast cancer cell line MCF-7 is indirect and involves insulin-like growth factor (IGF)-1 receptor function. Such a relationship was established in cell culture systems and human breast cancer tissues. Here we show that overexpression of PDZK1 promoted an increase in cyclin D1 and enhanced anchorage-independent growth of MCF-7 cells in the absence of 17β-estradiol, suggesting that PDZK1 harbors oncogenic activity. Indeed, PDKZ1 overexpression enhanced epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR)-stimulated MEK/ERK1/2 signaling and IGF-induced Akt phosphorylation. PDZK1 appeared to play this role, in part, by stabilizing the integrity of the growth promoting factors Akt, human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (Her2/Neu) and EGFR. Increased Akt levels occurred via a decrease in the ubiquitination of the kinase. PDZK1 overexpression was associated with resistance to paclitaxel/5-fluorouracil/etoposide only at low concentrations. Although the increased stability of Akt was sensitive to heat shock protein 90 (HSP90) inhibition, increased levels of the cochaperone cell division cycle 37 (Cdc37), as well as its ability to bind PDZK1, appear to play a larger role in kinase stability. Using human tissue microarrays, we show strong positive correlation between PDZK1, Akt and Cdc37 protein levels, and all correlated with human breast malignancy. There were no positive correlations between PDZK1 and Cdc37 at the mRNA levels, confirming our in vitro studies. These results demonstrate a relationship between PDZK1, Akt and Cdc37, and potentially Her2/Neu and EGFR, in breast cancer, representing a new axis that can be targeted therapeutically to reduce the burden of human breast 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.