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Cancer Res. 2011 Apr 1;71(7):2750-60. doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-10-2954. Epub 2011 Feb 11.

PTEN loss confers BRAF inhibitor resistance to melanoma cells through the suppression of BIM expression.

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  • 1Department of Molecular Oncology, The Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute, University of South Florida College of Medicine, Tampa, Florida, USA.


This study addresses the role of PTEN loss in intrinsic resistance to the BRAF inhibitor PLX4720. Immunohistochemical staining of a tissue array covering all stages of melanocytic neoplasia (n = 192) revealed PTEN expression to be lost in >10% of all melanoma cases. Although PTEN expression status did not predict for sensitivity to the growth inhibitory effects of PLX4720, it was predictive for apoptosis, with only limited cell death observed in melanomas lacking PTEN expression (PTEN-). Mechanistically, PLX4720 was found to stimulate AKT signaling in the PTEN- but not the PTEN+ cell lines. Liquid chromatography multiple reaction monitoring mass spectrometry (LC-MRM) was performed to identify differences in apoptosis signaling between the two cell line groups. PLX4720 treatment significantly increased BIM expression in the PTEN+ (>14-fold) compared with the PTEN- cell lines (four-fold). A role for PTEN in the regulation of PLX4720-mediated BIM expression was confirmed by siRNA knockdown of PTEN and through reintroduction of PTEN into cells that were PTEN-. Further studies showed that siRNA knockdown of BIM significantly blunted the apoptotic response in PTEN+ melanoma cells. Dual treatment of PTEN- cells with PLX4720 and a PI3K inhibitor enhanced BIM expression at both the mRNA and protein level and increased the level of apoptosis through a mechanism involving AKT3 and the activation of FOXO3a. In conclusion, we have shown for the first time that loss of PTEN contributes to intrinsic BRAF inhibitor resistance via the suppression of BIM-mediated apoptosis.

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