Background: Clinical trials of therapies directed against nodes of the signaling axis of phosphatidylinositol-3 kinase/Akt/mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) in glioblastoma (GBM) have had disappointing results. Resistance to mTOR inhibitors limits their efficacy.
Methods: To determine mechanisms of resistance to chronic mTOR inhibition, we performed tandem screens on patient-derived GBM cultures.
Results: An unbiased phosphoproteomic screen quantified phosphorylation changes associated with chronic exposure to the mTOR inhibitor rapamycin, and our analysis implicated a role for glycogen synthase kinase (GSK)3B attenuation in mediating resistance that was confirmed by functional studies. A targeted short hairpin RNA screen and further functional studies both in vitro and in vivo demonstrated that microtubule-associated protein (MAP)1B, previously associated predominantly with neurons, is a downstream effector of GSK3B-mediated resistance. Furthermore, we provide evidence that chronic rapamycin induces microtubule stability in a MAP1B-dependent manner in GBM cells. Additional experiments explicate a signaling pathway wherein combinatorial extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK)/mTOR targeting abrogates inhibitory phosphorylation of GSK3B, leads to phosphorylation of MAP1B, and confers sensitization.
Conclusions: These data portray a compensatory molecular signaling network that imparts resistance to chronic mTOR inhibition in primary, human GBM cell cultures and points toward new therapeutic strategies.