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PLoS One. 2012;7(4):e35665. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0035665. Epub 2012 Apr 24.

Inhibitors of phosphatidylinositol 3'-kinases promote mitotic cell death in HeLa cells.

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School of Life Sciences, University of Science and Technology of China, Hefei, China.


The phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K) pathway plays an important role in many biological processes, including cell cycle progression, cell growth, survival, actin rearrangement and migration, and intracellular vesicular transport. However, the involvement of the PI3K pathway in the regulation of mitotic cell death remains unclear. In this study, we treated HeLa cells with the PI3K inhibitors, 3-methyladenine (3-MA, as well as a widely used autophagy inhibitor) and wortmannin to examine their effects on cell fates using live cell imaging. Treatment with 3-MA decreased cell viability in a time- and dose-dependent manner and was associated with caspase-3 activation. Interestingly, 3-MA-induced cell death was not affected by RNA interference-mediated knockdown (KD) of beclin1 (an essential protein for autophagy) in HeLa cells, or by deletion of atg5 (an essential autophagy gene) in mouse embryonic fibroblasts (MEFs). These data indicate that cell death induced by 3-MA occurs independently of its ability to inhibit autophagy. The results from live cell imaging studies showed that the inhibition of PI3Ks increased the occurrence of lagging chromosomes and cell cycle arrest and cell death in prometaphase. Furthermore, PI3K inhibitors promoted nocodazole-induced mitotic cell death and reduced mitotic slippage. Overexpression of Akt (the downstream target of PI3K) antagonized PI3K inhibitor-induced mitotic cell death and promoted nocodazole-induced mitotic slippage. These results suggest a novel role for the PI3K pathway in regulating mitotic progression and preventing mitotic cell death and provide justification for the use of PI3K inhibitors in combination with anti-mitotic drugs to combat cancer.

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