Akt: a double-edged sword in cell proliferation and genome stability

J Oncol. 2012;2012:951724. doi: 10.1155/2012/951724. Epub 2012 Mar 15.


The Akt family of serine/threonine protein kinases are key regulators of multiple aspects of cell behaviour, including proliferation, survival, metabolism, and tumorigenesis. Growth-factor-activated Akt signalling promotes progression through normal, unperturbed cell cycles by acting on diverse downstream factors involved in controlling the G1/S and G2/M transitions. Remarkably, several recent studies have also implicated Akt in modulating DNA damage responses and genome stability. High Akt activity can suppress ATR/Chk1 signalling and homologous recombination repair (HRR) via direct phosphorylation of Chk1 or TopBP1 or, indirectly, by inhibiting recruitment of double-strand break (DSB) resection factors, such as RPA, Brca1, and Rad51, to sites of damage. Loss of checkpoint and/or HRR proficiency is therefore a potential cause of genomic instability in tumor cells with high Akt. Conversely, Akt is activated by DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs) in a DNA-PK- or ATM/ATR-dependent manner and in some circumstances can contribute to radioresistance by stimulating DNA repair by nonhomologous end joining (NHEJ). Akt therefore modifies both the response to and repair of genotoxic damage in complex ways that are likely to have important consequences for the therapy of tumors with deregulation of the PI3K-Akt-PTEN pathway.