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J Exp Med. 2004 Sep 6;200(5):659-69.

Activation of PI3K is indispensable for interleukin 7-mediated viability, proliferation, glucose use, and growth of T cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia cells.

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  • 1Tumor Biology Unit, Institute of Molecular Medicine, University of Lisbon Medical School, 1649-028, Lisbon, Portugal.


Interleukin (IL)-7 is essential for normal T cell development. Previously, we have shown that IL-7 increases viability and proliferation of T cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (T-ALL) cells by up-regulating Bcl-2 and down-regulating the cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor p27kip1. Here, we examined the signaling pathways via which IL-7 mediates these effects. We investigated mitogen-activated protein kinase (MEK)-extracellular signal-regulated kinase (Erk) and phosphatidylinositol-3-kinase (PI3K)-Akt (protein kinase B) pathways, which have active roles in T cell expansion and have been implicated in tumorigenesis. IL-7 induced activation of the MEK-Erk pathway in T-ALL cells; however, inhibition of the MEK-Erk pathway by the use of the cell-permeable inhibitor PD98059, did not affect IL-7-mediated viability or cell cycle progression of leukemic cells. IL-7 induced PI3K-dependent phosphorylation of Akt and its downstream targets GSK-3, FOXO1, and FOXO3a. PI3K activation was mandatory for IL-7-mediated Bcl-2 up-regulation, p27kip1 down-regulation, Rb hyperphosphorylation, and consequent viability and cell cycle progression of T-ALL cells. PI3K signaling was also required for cell size increase, up-regulation of CD71, expression of the glucose transporter Glut1, uptake of glucose, and maintenance of mitochondrial integrity. Our results implicate PI3K as a major effector of IL-7-induced viability, metabolic activation, growth and proliferation of T-ALL cells, and suggest that PI3K and its downstream effectors may represent molecular targets for therapeutic intervention in T-ALL.

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