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Am J Physiol Cell Physiol. 2009 Nov;297(5):C1188-99. doi: 10.1152/ajpcell.00042.2009. Epub 2009 Aug 5.

Influence of zinc deficiency on Akt-Mdm2-p53 and Akt-p21 signaling axes in normal and malignant human prostate cells.

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  • 1Department of Nutrition and Food Science, University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland 20742, USA.


Phosphorylated Akt (p-Akt), a phosphoinositide-3-OH-kinase-activated protein kinase, is highly expressed in prostate tumors. p-Akt can indirectly hinder p53-dependent growth suppression and apoptosis by phosphorylating Mdm2. Alternatively, p-Akt can directly phosphorylate p21 and restrict it to the cytoplasm for degradation. Because the prostate is the highest zinc-accumulating tissue before the onset of cancer, the effects of physiological levels of zinc on Akt-Mdm2-p53 and Akt-p21 signaling axes in human normal prostate epithelial cells (PrEC) and malignant prostate LNCaP cells were examined in the present study. Cells were cultured for 6 days in low-zinc growth medium supplemented with 0 [zinc-deficient (ZD)], 4 [zinc-normal (ZN)], 16 [zinc-adequate (ZA)], or 32 [zinc-supplemented (ZS)] microM zinc. Zinc status of both cell types was altered in a dose-dependent manner, with LNCaP cells reaching a plateau at >16 microM zinc. For both cell types, p-Akt was higher in the ZD than in the ZN cells and was normalized to that of the ZN cells by treatment with a PI3K inhibitor, LY-294002. PTEN, an endogenous phosphatase targeting Akt dephosphorylation, was hyperphosphorylated (p-PTEN, inactive form) in ZD PrEC. Nuclear p-Mdm2 was raised, whereas nuclear p53 was depressed, by zinc deficiency in PrEC. Nuclear p21 and p53 were lowered by zinc deficiency in LNCaP cells. Higher percentages of ZD, ZA, and ZS than ZN LNCaP cells were found at the G(0)/G(1) phase of the cell cycle, with proportionally lower precentages at the S and G(2)/M phases. Hence, the increased p-PTEN in ZD PrEC would result in hyperphosphorylation of p-Akt and p-Mdm2, as well as reduction of nuclear p53 accumulation. For ZD LNCaP cells, Akt hyperphosphorylation was probably mediated through p21 phosphorylation and degradation, thus restricting p21 nuclear entry to induce cell cycle arrest. Thus zinc deficiency differentially modulated the Akt-Mdm2-p53 signaling axis in normal prostate cells vs. the Akt-p21 signaling axis in malignant prostate cells.

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