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NMR Biomed. 2012 Feb;25(2):379-88. doi: 10.1002/nbm.1764. Epub 2011 Aug 23.

Metabolic consequences of treatment with AKT inhibitor perifosine in breast cancer cells.

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  • 1Department of Radiology and Biomedical Imaging, University of California at San Francisco, San Francisco, California, USA.


Activation of the PI3K/Akt pathway is associated with the development of numerous human cancers. As a result, many emerging therapies target this pathway. Previous studies have shown that targeting the PI3K/Akt pathway at the level of PI3K is associated with a drop in phosphocholine (PCho) and a reduction in hyperpolarized lactate production. However, the consequences of targeting downstream of PI3K at the level of Akt have not been investigated. Perifosine is an anticancer alkylphospholipid used in clinical trials. It acts by inhibiting phosphorylation of Akt and has been shown to inhibit CTP-phosphocholine cytidyltransferase (CT). The goal of this study was to identify the MRS-detectable metabolic consequences of treatment with perifosine in MCF-7 breast cancer cells. We found that perifosine treatment led to a 51 ± 5% drop in PCho from 30 ± 5 to 15 ± 1 fmol/cell and a comparable drop in de novo synthesized PCho. This was associated with a drop in choline kinase (ChoK) activity and ChoKα expression. CT inhibition could not be ruled out but likely did not contribute to the change in PCho. We also found that intracellular lactate levels decreased from 2.7 ± 0.5 to 1.5 ± 0.3 fmol/cell and extracellular lactate levels dropped by a similar extent. These findings were consistent with a drop in lactate dehydrogenase expression and associated with a drop in activity of the hypoxia inducible factor (HIF)-1α. The drops in PCho and lactate production following perifosine treatment are therefore mediated downstream of Akt by the drop in HIF-1α, which serves as the transcription factor for both ChoK and lactate dehydrogenase. The metabolic changes were confirmed in a second breast cancer cell line, MDA-MB-231. Taken together, these findings indicate that PCho and lactate can serve as noninvasive metabolic biomarkers for monitoring the effects of inhibitors that target the PI3K/Akt pathway, independent of the step that leads to inhibition of HIF-1α.

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