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Cancer Res. 2003 Oct 15;63(20):6697-706.

Adenoviral-mediated expression of a kinase-dead mutant of Akt induces apoptosis selectively in tumor cells and suppresses tumor growth in mice.

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  • 1Department of Tumor Biology, Schering-Plough Research Institute, Kenilworth, New Jersey 07033, USA.


Akt/protein kinase B is a serine/threonine kinase that plays a critical role in cell survival signaling, and its activation has been linked to tumorigenesis in several human cancers. Up-regulation of Akt, as well as its upstream regulator phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase, has been found in many tumors, and the negative regulator of this pathway, mutated in multiple advanced cancers suppressor (MMAC; also known as phosphatase and tensin homologue deleted on chromosome 10), is a tumor suppressor gene. We have investigated the effects of inhibiting Akt signaling in tumor cells by expression of an Akt kinase-dead mutant in which the two regulatory phosphorylation sites have been mutated to alanines. This mutant, which functions in a dominant negative manner (Akt-DN), was introduced into tumor cells using a replication-defective adenovirus expression system. As controls we used adenoviruses expressing p53, MMAC, beta-galactosidase, and empty virus. We show that in vitro proliferation of human and mouse tumor cells expressing high levels of activated/phosphorylated Akt was inhibited by both Akt-DN and p53, in comparison with control viruses expressing beta-galactosidase. Similarly, Akt-DN mutant expression led to selective induction of apoptosis in tumor cells expressing activated Akt. On the other hand, Akt-DN expression had minimal effect in normal and tumor cells expressing low levels of activated Akt. Expression of MMAC induced selective apoptosis in tumor cell lines in which MMAC is inactivated but not in tumor cells expressing wild-type levels of MMAC. In addition, the growth of tumor cells in a mouse model was also significantly inhibited by intratumoral injection of Akt-DN virus. These studies validate the usefulness of targeting Akt for new drug discovery efforts and suggest that inhibition of Akt may have a selective antitumor effect.

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