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Mol Cancer Ther. 2006 May;5(5):1176-82.

Motexafin gadolinium modulates levels of phosphorylated Akt and synergizes with inhibitors of Akt phosphorylation.

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Pharmacyclics, Inc., 995 Arques Avenue, Sunnyvale, CA 94085, USA.


Motexafin gadolinium (MGd, Xcytrin) is a tumor-selective expanded porphyrin that targets oxidative stress-related proteins. MGd treatment of the follicular lymphoma-derived cell line HF-1 resulted in growth suppression and apoptosis whereas MGd treatment of the Burkitt's lymphoma-derived cell line Ramos resulted in growth suppression but not apoptosis. Because phosphorylation status of Akt/protein kinase B is regulated by oxidative stress, we monitored total and phosphorylated Akt (pAkt) in MGd-treated HF-1 and Ramos cells. Levels of pAkt increased within 30 minutes after MGd treatment of HF-1 but after 4 hours began to show a progressive decline to below baseline levels before cells underwent apoptosis. In MGd-treated Ramos cells, pAkt increased approximately 2-fold within 4 hours and remained persistently elevated. Because pAkt activates survival pathways, we determined if MGd-induced cell death could be enhanced by inhibiting phosphorylation of Akt. The addition of specific inhibitors of Akt phosphorylation (Akt inhibitor 1 or SH-5) reduced pAkt levels in MGd-treated HF-1 and Ramos cells and synergistically enhanced MGd-induced cell death. MGd was also evaluated in combination with celecoxib, an inhibitor of Akt phosphorylation, or docetaxel, a microtubule inhibitor that can decrease Akt phosphorylation. The combination of MGd/celecoxib or MGd/docetaxel resulted in decreased Akt phosphorylation and in synergistic cytotoxicity compared with either agent alone. These data point to a potential protective role for pAkt in MGd-induced apoptosis and suggest that MGd activity may be enhanced by combining it with agents that inhibit Akt phosphorylation.

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