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Leukemia. 2003 Sep;17(9):1794-805.

A new selective AKT pharmacological inhibitor reduces resistance to chemotherapeutic drugs, TRAIL, all-trans-retinoic acid, and ionizing radiation of human leukemia cells.

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Dipartimento di Scienze Anatomiche Umane e Fisiopatologia dell'Apparato Locomotore, Sezione di Anatomia, Cell Signalling Laboratory, UniversitĂ  di Bologna, Bologna, Italy.


It is now well established that the reduced capacity of tumor cells of undergoing cell death through apoptosis plays a key role both in the pathogenesis of cancer and in therapeutic treatment failure. Indeed, tumor cells frequently display multiple alterations in signal transduction pathways leading to either cell survival or apoptosis. In mammals, the pathway based on phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K)/Akt conveys survival signals of extreme importance and its downregulation, by means of pharmacological inhibitors of PI3K, considerably lowers resistance to various types of therapy in solid tumors. We recently described an HL60 leukemia cell clone (HL60AR cells) with a constitutively active PI3K/Akt pathway. These cells were resistant to multiple chemotherapeutic drugs, all-trans-retinoic acid (ATRA), and tumor necrosis factor-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL). Treatment with two pharmacological inhibitors of PI3K, wortmannin and Ly294002, restored sensitivity of HL60AR cells to the aforementioned treatments. However, these inhibitors have some drawbacks that may severely limit or impede their clinical use. Here, we have tested whether or not a new selective Akt inhibitor, 1L-6-hydroxymethyl-chiro-inositol 2(R)-2-O-methyl-3-O-octadecylcarbonate (Akt inhibitor), was as effective as Ly294002 in lowering the sensitivity threshold of HL60 cells to chemotherapeutic drugs, TRAIL, ATRA, and ionizing radiation. Our findings demonstrate that, at a concentration which does not affect PI3K activity, the Akt inhibitor markedly reduced resistance of HL60AR cells to etoposide, cytarabine, TRAIL, ATRA, and ionizing radiation. This effect was likely achieved through downregulation of expression of antiapoptotic proteins such as c-IAP1, c-IAP2, cFLIP(L), and of Bad phosphorylation on Ser 136. The Akt inhibitor did not influence PTEN activity. At variance with Ly294002, the Akt inhibitor did not negatively affect phosphorylation of protein kinase C-zeta and it was less effective in downregulating p70S6 kinase (p70S6K) activity. The Akt inhibitor increased sensitivity to apoptotic inducers of K562 and U937, but not of MOLT-4, leukemia cells. Overall, our results indicate that selective Akt pharmacological inhibitors might be used in the future for enhancing the sensitivity of leukemia cells to therapeutic treatments that induce apoptosis or for overcoming resistance to these treatments.

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