Dominant roles of the Raf/MEK/ERK pathway in cell cycle progression, prevention of apoptosis and sensitivity to chemotherapeutic drugs

Linda S Steelman, Stephen L Abrams, John G Shelton, William H Chappell, Jörg Bäsecke, Franca Stivala, Marco Donia, Ferdinando Nicoletti, Massimo Libra, Alberto M Martelli, James A McCubrey
Cell Cycle 2010 April 15, 9 (8): 1629-38
The effects of the Raf/MEK/ERK and PI3K/PTEN/Akt/mTOR signaling pathways on cell cycle progression, gene expression, prevention of apoptosis and sensitivity to chemotherapeutic drugs were examined in FL/ΔAkt-1:ER*(Myr(+)) + ΔRaf-1:AR cells which are conditionally-transformed to grow in response to Raf-1 and Akt-1 activation by treatment with testosterone or tamoxifen respectively. In these cells we can compare the effects of normal cytokine vs. oncogene mediated signaling in the same cells by changing the culture conditions. Raf-1 was more effective than Akt-1 in inducing cell cycle progression and preventing apoptosis in the presence and absence of chemotherapeutic drugs. The normal cytokine for these cells, interleukin-3 induced/activated most downstream genes transiently, with the exception of p70S6K that was induced for prolonged periods of time. In contrast, most of the downstream genes induced by either the activate Raf-1 or Akt-1 oncogenes were induced for prolonged periods of time, documenting the differences between cytokine and oncogene mediated gene induction which has important therapeutic consequences. The FL/ΔAkt-1:ER*(Myr(+)) + ΔRaf-1:AR cells were sensitive to MEK and PI3K/mTOR inhibitors. Combining MEK and PI3K/mTOR inhibitors increased the induction of apoptosis. The effects of doxorubicin on the induction of apoptosis could be enhanced with MEK, PI3K and mTOR inhibitors. Targeting the Raf/MEK/ERK and PI3K/PTEN/Akt/mTOR pathways may be an effective approach for therapeutic intervention in those cancers which have upstream mutations which result in activation of these pathways.

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