Ablation of PI3K blocks BCR-ABL leukemogenesis in mice, and a dual PI3K/mTOR inhibitor prevents expansion of human BCR-ABL+ leukemia cells

J Clin Invest. 2008 Sep;118(9):3038-50. doi: 10.1172/JCI33337.


Some cases of pre-B cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (pre-B-ALL) are caused by the Philadelphia (Ph) chromosome-encoded BCR-ABL oncogene, and these tend to have a poor prognosis. Inhibitors of the PI3K/AKT pathway reduce BCR-ABL-mediated transformation in vitro; however, the specific PI3K isoforms involved are poorly defined. Using a murine model of Ph+ pre-B-ALL, we found that deletion of both Pik3r1 and Pik3r2, genes encoding class IA PI3K regulatory isoforms, severely impaired transformation. BCR-ABL-dependent pre/pro-B cell lines could be established at low frequency from progenitors that lacked these genes, but the cells were smaller, proliferated more slowly, and failed to cause leukemia in vivo. These cell lines displayed nearly undetectable PI3K signaling function and were resistant to the PI3K inhibitor wortmannin. However, they maintained activation of mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) and were more sensitive to rapamycin. Treatment with rapamycin caused feedback activation of AKT in WT cell lines but not PI3K-deficient lines. A dual inhibitor of PI3K and mTOR, PI-103, was more effective than rapamycin at suppressing proliferation of mouse pre-B-ALL and human CD19+CD34+)Ph+ ALL leukemia cells treated with the ABL kinase inhibitor imatinib. Our findings provide mechanistic insights into PI3K dependency in oncogenic networks and provide a rationale for targeting class IA PI3K, alone or together with mTOR, in the treatment of Ph+ ALL.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigens, CD19 / biosynthesis
  • Antigens, CD34 / biosynthesis
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology
  • Burkitt Lymphoma / genetics*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Cell Transformation, Neoplastic
  • Fusion Proteins, bcr-abl / metabolism*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Leukemic*
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Models, Biological
  • Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases / metabolism*
  • Phosphoinositide-3 Kinase Inhibitors
  • Protein Kinases / metabolism*
  • TOR Serine-Threonine Kinases


  • Antigens, CD19
  • Antigens, CD34
  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Phosphoinositide-3 Kinase Inhibitors
  • Protein Kinases
  • MTOR protein, human
  • TOR Serine-Threonine Kinases
  • mTOR protein, mouse
  • Fusion Proteins, bcr-abl