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J Biol Chem. 2001 Apr 13;276(15):12466-75. Epub 2001 Jan 18.

Disruption of 3-phosphoinositide-dependent kinase 1 (PDK1) signaling by the anti-tumorigenic and anti-proliferative agent n-alpha-tosyl-l-phenylalanyl chloromethyl ketone.

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  • 1Department of Cell Biology, Harvard Medical School, Dana Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, Masschusetts 02115, USA.


The anti-tumorigenic and anti-proliferative effects of N-alpha-tosyl-l-phenylalanyl chloromethyl ketone (TPCK) have been known for more than three decades. Yet little is known about the discrete cellular targets of TPCK controlling these effects. Previous work from our laboratory showed TPCK, like the immunosuppressant rapamycin, to be a potent inhibitor of the 70-kilodalton ribosomal S6 kinase 1 (S6K1), which mediates events involved in cell growth and proliferation. We show here that rapamycin and TPCK display distinct inhibitory mechanisms on S6K1 as a rapamycin-resistant form of S6K1 was TPCK-sensitive. Additionally, we show that TPCK inhibited the activation of the related kinase and proto-oncogene Akt. Upstream regulators of S6K1 and Akt include phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI 3-K) and 3-phosphoinositide-dependent kinase 1 (PDK1). Whereas TPCK had no effect on either mitogen-regulated PI 3-K activity or total cellular PDK1 activity, TPCK prevented phosphorylation of the PDK1 regulatory sites in S6K1 and Akt. Furthermore, whereas both PDK1 and the mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) are required for full activation of the 90-kilodalton ribosomal S6 kinase (RSK), TPCK inhibited RSK activation without inhibiting MAPK activation. Consistent with the capacity of RSK and Akt to mediate a cell survival signal, in part through phosphorylation of the pro-apoptotic protein BAD, TPCK reduced BAD phosphorylation and led to cell death in interleukin-3-dependent 32D cells. Finally, in agreement with results seen in embryonic stem cells lacking PDK1, protein kinase A activation was not inhibited by TPCK showing TPCK specificity for mitogen-regulated PDK1 signaling. TPCK inhibition of PDK1 signaling thus disables central kinase cascades governing diverse cellular processes including proliferation and survival and provides an explanation for its striking biological effects.

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