Inhibition of GSK-3β activity can result in drug and hormonal resistance and alter sensitivity to targeted therapy in MCF-7 breast cancer cells

Melissa Sokolosky, William H Chappell, Kristin Stadelman, Stephen L Abrams, Nicole M Davis, Linda S Steelman, James A McCubrey
Cell Cycle 2014, 13 (5): 820-33
The PI3K/Akt/mTORC1 pathway plays prominent roles in malignant transformation, prevention of apoptosis, drug resistance, and metastasis. One molecule regulated by this pathway is GSK-3β. GSK-3β is phosphorylated by Akt on S9, which leads to its inactivation; however, GSK-3β also can regulate the activity of the PI3K/Akt/mTORC1 pathway by phosphorylating molecules such as PTEN, TSC2, p70S6K, and 4E-BP1. To further elucidate the roles of GSK-3β in chemotherapeutic drug and hormonal resistance of MCF-7 breast cancer cells, we transfected MCF-7 breast cancer cells with wild-type (WT), kinase-dead (KD), and constitutively activated (A9) forms of GSK-3β. MCF-7/GSK-3β(KD) cells were more resistant to doxorubicin and tamoxifen compared with either MCF-7/GSK-3β(WT) or MCF-7/GSK-3β(A9) cells. In the presence and absence of doxorubicin, the MCF-7/GSK-3β(KD) cells formed more colonies in soft agar compared with MCF-7/GSK-3β(WT) or MCF-7/GSK-3β(A9) cells. In contrast, MCF-7/GSK-3β(KD) cells displayed an elevated sensitivity to the mTORC1 blocker rapamycin compared with MCF-7/GSK-3β(WT) or MCF-7/GSK-3β(A9) cells, while no differences between the 3 cell types were observed upon treatment with a MEK inhibitor by itself. However, resistance to doxorubicin and tamoxifen were alleviated in MCF-7/GSK-3β(KD) cells upon co-treatment with an MEK inhibitor, indicating regulation of this resistance by the Raf/MEK/ERK pathway. Treatment of MCF-7 and MCF-7/GSK-3β(WT) cells with doxorubicin eliminated the detection of S9-phosphorylated GSK-3β, while total GSK-3β was still detected. In contrast, S9-phosphorylated GSK-3β was still detected in MCF-7/GSK-3β(KD) and MCF-7/GSK-3β(A9) cells, indicating that one of the effects of doxorubicin on MCF-7 cells was suppression of S9-phosphorylated GSK-3β, which could result in increased GSK-3β activity. Taken together, these results demonstrate that introduction of GSK-3β(KD) into MCF-7 breast cancer cells promotes resistance to doxorubicin and tamoxifen, but sensitizes the cells to mTORC1 blockade by rapamycin. Therefore GSK-3β is a key regulatory molecule in sensitivity of breast cancer cells to chemo-, hormonal, and targeted therapy.

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