Inactivation of the antiapoptotic phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase-Akt pathway by the combined treatment of taxol and mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase inhibition

Jeffrey P MacKeigan, Debra J Taxman, Deborah Hunter, H Shelton Earp, Lee M Graves, Jenny P-Y Ting
Clinical Cancer Research 2002, 8 (7): 2091-9
Paclitaxel (Taxol) activates a number of signal transduction pathways that lead to apoptosis. In contrast, paclitaxel also activates cell survival pathways, such as the Raf-mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase (MEK)-extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) pathway. Previously, we have shown that inhibition of MEK combined with paclitaxel treatment causes an impressive enhancement of apoptosis in various tumor cell lines. Here, we find that the combination of paclitaxel with a MEK inhibitor leads to a dramatic inactivation of the antiapoptotic Akt (protein kinase B) kinase. The decrease in Akt is not reflected at the protein or mRNA level but rather attributed to kinase inactivation. To confirm that inactivation of Akt is significant, a constitutively active Akt mutant was introduced and shown to reverse tumor cell apoptosis. Further analysis upstream of Akt shows that treatment with the combination of paclitaxel and MEK inhibitor down-regulates PI3K activity more than either agent alone. The direct pharmacological inhibition of phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K) similarly enhances paclitaxel-induced tumor apoptosis in a dose-dependent manner. Our results suggest the combination of paclitaxel and MEK inhibitor leads to down-regulation of the PI3K-Akt signaling in addition to the proapoptotic effects of paclitaxel and MEK inhibitor alone. Overall, these findings render the combined use of paclitaxel with MEK inhibitors, or paclitaxel with PI3K inhibitors, as a promising new strategy for cancer chemotherapy.

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