Protein kinase B/Akt has been described as a central mediator of anti-apoptotic signals transduced by the PI3 kinase. Although the role of Akt in the suppression of apoptosis is well elucidated, a potential function of Akt in tumorigenesis and chemoresistance is less intensively documented. In this study, we describe the construction of a novel form of constitutively active Akt1, which relies on the deletion of its pleckstrin homology domain and the insertion of a C-terminal farnesylation sequence. Stable cell lines were generated with MCF10A mammary epithelial cells and A549 human NSCLC cells expressing constitutively active Akt1. Enigneered MCF10A cells were rendered resistant towards apoptosis resulting from loss of cellular substrate attachment (anoikis). We investigated the chemosensitivity of A549 cells expressing farnesylated Akt vs control cells. A profoundly decreased sensitivity towards Mitoxantrone and cisplatin was observed in cells expressing farnesylated Akt. No significant difference in sensitivity however was observed upon treatment with cell cycle specific chemotherapeutic agents like paclitaxel. Our data suggest, that Akt is a central mediator in the suppression of anoikis and modulation of chemotherapy-induced apoptosis. Therefore it represents a promising target for small molecule inhibitors to shift the apoptotic threshold in cancer cells after treatment with standard chemotherapy.
Copyright 2002 Cancer Research UK