Glucocorticoid resistance is a major driver of therapeutic failure in T cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (T-ALL). Here, we identify the AKT1 kinase as a major negative regulator of the NR3C1 glucocorticoid receptor protein activity driving glucocorticoid resistance in T-ALL. Mechanistically, AKT1 impairs glucocorticoid-induced gene expression by direct phosphorylation of NR3C1 at position S134 and blocking glucocorticoid-induced NR3C1 translocation to the nucleus. Moreover, we demonstrate that loss of PTEN and consequent AKT1 activation can effectively block glucocorticoid-induced apoptosis and induce resistance to glucocorticoid therapy. Conversely, pharmacologic inhibition of AKT with MK2206 effectively restores glucocorticoid-induced NR3C1 translocation to the nucleus, increases the response of T-ALL cells to glucocorticoid therapy, and effectively reverses glucocorticoid resistance in vitro and in vivo.
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