Background: In advanced stages of prostate cancer, the phosphatidylinositol-3' kinase (PI3K)/Akt signaling cascade, one of the major survival pathways in the cell, is frequently constitutively activated due to mutation or loss of the tumor suppressor protein phosphatase and tensin homolog deleted on chromosome 10 (PTEN). Using cell culture models representing different tumor stages, we explored the effect of inhibition of this survival pathway on the induction of apoptosis.
Methods: Inhibition of the survival kinase Akt and induction of apoptosis was analyzed in androgen-insensitive DU145 and PC-3 cells, in androgen-responsive LNCaP, and in androgen-independent long-term androgen-ablated LNCaP-abl cells representing therapy-resistant prostate cancer cells. Activated Akt was determined by immunoblotting using a phospho-Akt specific antibody. Induction of apoptosis was analyzed employing annexing V and propidium iodide staining and flow cytometry and measurement of cleavage of the caspases substrate poly-ADP-ribose polymerase (PARP).
Results: IGF-1, EGF, and heregulin but not PDGF or activators of protein kinase A induced phosphorylation of Akt in DU145 cells and activation was completely blocked by the PI3K inhibitor LY294002. In the hormone-responsive prostate cancer cell line LNCaP that has a constitutively switched-on Akt kinase, LY294002 caused a dose- and time-dependent Akt inhibition, which was absent in long-term androgen-ablated LNCaP sublines. In agreement with the resistance to inhibition of the PI3K/Akt pathway, long-term androgen-ablated LNCaP sublines remained relatively resistant to induction of cell death by LY294002 or the cytotoxic drug etoposide. Inhibition of the PI3K/Akt pathway restored the sensitivity of long-term androgen-ablated cells to induction of apoptosis by a cytotoxic drug almost completely.
Conclusion: These results suggest that long-term androgen ablation therapy for prostate cancer reinforces the PI3K/Akt pathway and impedes its inhibition thus contributing to increased resistance of tumor cells to induction of apoptosis. With regard to treatment of therapy-refractory prostate cancer, these findings suggest effectiveness of a combination of cytotoxic treatment and inhibition of the PI3K-Akt survival pathway in tumor cells after failure of androgen-ablation therapy.
Copyright 2003 Wiley-Liss, Inc.