Molecular alterations in apoptotic pathways after PKB/Akt-mediated chemoresistance in NCI H460 cells

S Hövelmann, T L Beckers, M Schmidt
British Journal of Cancer 2004 June 14, 90 (12): 2370-7
Protein kinase B/Akt has been described as a central mediator of antiapoptotic signals in cancer cells. Furthermore, Akt has been shown to affect cell cycle progression and proliferative pathways and to possess a potential function in tumorigenesis and chemoresistance. In this study, we show that the ectopic expression of a constitutively active form of Akt1 (CA-Akt1) results in enhanced chemoresistance of NCI H460 human NSCLC cells towards a panel of chemotherapeutic agents. To understand the molecular alterations leading to impaired chemosensitivity mediated by activated Akt, we analysed various apoptotic pathways, including the activation of p53, caspases 3, 7, 8, and 9, release of cytochrome c from mitochondria, and the expression levels of pro- and antiapoptotic proteins such as Bcl-2, Bcl-x(L), Bcl-x(s), Bax, or Bfl-1. We observed that expression of CA-Akt did not interfere with single defined apoptotic switches, but modulated the apoptotic threshold of several apoptotic pathways towards increasing the threshold of onset. In particular, we found that CA-Akt-expressing cells displayed increased expression of the antiapoptotic Bcl-2 family member protein Bcl-x(l), and a delayed onset of the p53 pathway after treatment with cisplatin or Mitoxantrone. Thus, our data suggest that Akt mediates chemoresistance in NHI H460 cells by interfering with and delaying the onset of various apoptotic pathways. A complete inactivation of apoptotic pathways was observed in none of the molecular alterations investigated. Our data strengthen the role of Akt as a central mediator of cell survival signals and/or chemoresistance and as an attractive target for cancer cell chemosensitisation.

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