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Oncogene. 2007 Apr 5;26(16):2353-64. Epub 2006 Oct 9.

AKT induces senescence in primary esophageal epithelial cells but is permissive for differentiation as revealed in organotypic culture.

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Gastroenterology Division and Department of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19085, USA.


Epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) overexpression and activation is critical in the initiation and progression of cancers, especially those of epithelial origin. EGFR activation is associated with the induction of divergent signal transduction pathways and a gamut of cellular processes; however, the cell-type and tissue-type specificity conferred by certain pathways remains to be elucidated. In the context of the esophageal epithelium, a prototype stratified squamous epithelium, EGFR overexpression is relevant in the earliest events of carcinogenesis as modeled in a three-dimensional organotypic culture system. We demonstrate that the phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K)/AKT signaling pathway, and not the MEK/MAPK (mitogen-activated protein kinase) pathway, is preferentially activated in EGFR-mediated esophageal epithelial hyperplasia, a premalignant lesion. The hyperplasia was abolished with direct inhibition of PI3K and of AKT but not with inhibition of the MAPK pathway. With the introduction of an inducible AKT vector in both primary and immortalized esophageal epithelial cells, we find that AKT overexpression and activation is permissive for complete epithelial formation in organotypic culture, but imposes a growth constraint in cells grown in monolayer. In organotypic culture, AKT mediates changes related to cell shape and size with an expansion of the differentiated compartment.

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