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BMC Cell Biol. 2006 Sep 19;7:34.

EGF-induced activation of Akt results in mTOR-dependent p70S6 kinase phosphorylation and inhibition of HC11 cell lactogenic differentiation.

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  • 1Department of Pathology, United States Military Cancer Institute, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Bethesda, MD 20814, USA.



HC11 mouse mammary epithelial cells differentiate in response to lactogenic hormone resulting in expression of milk proteins including beta-casein. Previous studies have shown that epidermal growth factor (EGF) blocks differentiation not only through activation of the Ras/Mek/Erk pathway but also implicated phosphatidylinositol-3-kinase (PI-3-kinase) signaling. The current study analyzes the mechanism of the PI-3-kinase pathway in an EGF-induced block of HC11 lactogenic differentiation.


HC11 and HC11-luci cells, which contain luciferase gene under the control of a beta-casein promotor, were treated with specific chemical inhibitors of signal transduction pathways or transiently infected/transfected with vectors encoding dominant negative-Akt (DN-Akt) or conditionally active-Akt (CA-Akt). The expression of CA-Akt inhibited lactogenic differentiation of HC11 cells, and the infection with DN-Akt adenovirus enhanced beta-casein transcription and rescued beta-casein promotor-regulated luciferase activity in the presence of EGF. Treatment of cells with Rapamycin, an inhibitor of mTOR, blocked the effects of EGF on beta-casein promotor driven luciferase activity as effectively as PI-3-kinase inhibitors. While expression of CA-Akt caused a constitutive activation of p70S6 kinase (p70S6K) in HC11 cells, the inhibition of either PI-3-kinase or mTOR abolished the activation of p70S6K by EGF. The activation of p70S6K by insulin or EGF resulted in the phosphorylation of ribosomal protein S6 (RPS6), elongation initiation factor 4E (elF4E) and 4E binding protein1 (4E-BP1). But lower levels of PI-3-K and mTOR inhibitors were required to block insulin-induced phosphorylation of RPS6 than EGF-induced phosphorylation, and insulin-induced phosphorylation of elF4E and 4E-BP1 was not completely mTOR dependent suggesting some diversity of signaling for EGF and insulin. In HC11 cells undergoing lactogenic differentiation the phosphorylation of p70S6K completely diminished by 12 hours, and this was partly attributable to dexamethasone, a component of lactogenic hormone mix. However, p70S6K phosphorylation persisted in the presence of lactogenic hormone and EGF, but the activation could be blocked by a PI-3-kinase inhibitor.


PI-3-kinase signaling contributes to the EGF block of lactogenic differentiation via Akt and p70S6K. The EGF-induced activation of PI-3-kinase-Akt-mTOR regulates phosphorylation of molecules including ribosomal protein S6, eIF4E and 4E-BP1 that influence translational control in HC11 cells undergoing lactogenic differentiation.

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