Pleckstrin homology domain of Akt kinase: a proof of principle for highly specific and effective non-enzymatic anti-cancer target

PLoS One. 2012;7(11):e50424. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0050424. Epub 2012 Nov 26.


While pharmacological inhibition of Akt kinase has been regarded as a promising anti-cancer strategy, most of the Akt inhibitors that have been developed are enzymatic inhibitors that target the kinase active site of Akt. Another key cellular regulatory event for Akt activation is the translocation of Akt kinase to the cell membrane from the cytoplasm, which is accomplished through the pleckstrin homology (PH) domain of Akt. However, compounds specifically interacting with the PH domain of Akt to inhibit Akt activation are currently limited. Here we identified a compound, lancemaside A (LAN-A), which specifically binds to the PH domain of Akt kinase. First, our mass spectra analysis of cellular Akt kinase isolated from cells treated with LAN-A revealed that LAN-A specifically binds to the PH domain of cellular Akt kinase. Second, we observed that LAN-A inhibits the translocation of Akt kinase to the membrane and thus Akt activation, as examined by the phosphorylation of various downstream targets of Akt such as GSK3β, mTOR and BAD. Third, in a co-cultured cell model containing human lung epithelial cancer cells (A549) and normal human primary lung fibroblasts, LAN-A specifically restricts the growth of the A549 cells. LAN-A also displayed anti-proliferative effects on various human cancer cell lines. Finally, in the A549-luciferase mouse transplant model, LAN-A effectively inhibited A549 cell growth with little evident cytotoxicity. Indeed, the therapeutic index of LAN-A in this mouse model was >250, supporting that LAN-A is a potential lead compound for PH domain targeting as a safe anti-cancer Akt inhibitor.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / metabolism
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Antineoplastic Agents / toxicity
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / metabolism
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / pharmacology*
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / toxicity
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Mice, Nude
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Neoplasms / enzymology
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Protein Binding
  • Protein Interaction Domains and Motifs / drug effects*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt / chemistry*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt / metabolism
  • Saponins / metabolism
  • Saponins / pharmacology*
  • Saponins / toxicity
  • Tumor Burden / drug effects
  • Xenograft Model Antitumor Assays


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Saponins
  • lancemaside A
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt