Activation of v-akt murine thymoma viral oncogene homolog (AKT) and Ras pathways is often implicated in carcinogenesis. However, the oncogenic cooperation between these two cascades in relationship to hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) development remains undetermined. To investigate this issue, we generated a mouse model characterized by combined overexpression of activated forms of AKT and neuroblastoma Ras viral oncogene homolog (N-Ras) protooncogenes in the liver by way of hydrodynamic gene transfer. The molecular mechanisms underlying crosstalk between AKT and N-Ras were assessed in the mouse model and further evaluated in human and murine HCC cell lines. We found that coexpression of AKT and N-Ras resulted in a dramatic acceleration of liver tumor development when compared with mice overexpressing AKT alone, whereas N-Ras alone did not lead to tumor formation. At the cellular level, concomitant up-regulation of AKT and N-Ras resulted in increased proliferation and microvascularization when compared with AKT-injected mice. Mechanistic studies suggested that accelerated hepatocarcinogenesis driven by AKT and N-Ras resulted from a strong activation of mammalian target of rapamycin complex 1 (mTORC1). Furthermore, elevated expression of FOXM1/SKP2 and c-Myc also contributed to rapid tumor growth in AKT/Ras mice, yet by way of mTORC1-independent mechanisms. The biological effects of coactivation of AKT and N-Ras were then recapitulated in vitro using HCC cell lines, which supports the functional significance of mTORC1, FOXM1/SKP2, and c-Myc signaling cascades in mediating AKT and N-Ras-induced liver tumor development.
Conclusion: Our data demonstrate the in vivo crosstalk between the AKT and Ras pathways in promoting liver tumor development, and the pivotal role of mTORC1-dependent and independent pathways in mediating AKT and Ras induced hepatocarcinogenesis.
Copyright © 2011 American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases.