bims-pideca Biomed News
on Class IA PI3K signalling in development and cancer
Issue of 2020‒04‒26
fourteen papers selected by
Ralitsa Radostinova Madsen
University College London Cancer Institute

  1. Nat Commun. 2020 Apr 20. 11(1): 1880
      PI3K/AKT signaling is known to regulate cancer metabolism, but whether metabolic feedback regulates the PI3K/AKT pathway is unclear. Here, we demonstrate the important reciprocal crosstalk between the PI3K/AKT signal and pentose phosphate pathway (PPP) branching metabolic pathways. PI3K/AKT activation stabilizes G6PD, the rate-limiting enzyme of the PPP, by inhibiting the newly identified E3 ligase TIRM21 and promotes the PPP. PPP metabolites, in turn, reinforce AKT activation and further promote cancer metabolic reprogramming by blocking the expression of the AKT inhibitor PHLDA3. Knockout of TRIM21 or PHLDA3 promotes crosstalk and cell proliferation. Importantly, PTEN null human cancer cells and in vivo murine models are sensitive to anti-PPP treatments, suggesting the importance of the PPP in maintaining AKT activation even in the presence of a constitutively activated PI3K pathway. Our study suggests that blockade of this reciprocal crosstalk mechanism may have a therapeutic benefit for cancers with PTEN loss or PI3K/AKT activation.
  2. Br J Cancer. 2020 Apr 24.
      Mutations in PTEN activate the phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K) signalling network, leading to many of the characteristic phenotypic changes of cancer. However, the primary effects of this gene on oncogenesis through control of the PI3K-AKT-mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) pathway might not be the only avenue by which PTEN affects tumour progression. PTEN has been shown to regulate the antiviral interferon network and thus alter how cancer cells communicate with and are targeted by immune cells. An active, T cell-infiltrated microenvironment is critical for immunotherapy success, which is also influenced by mutations in DNA damage repair pathways and the overall mutational burden of the tumour. As PTEN has a role in the maintenance of genomic integrity, it is likely that a loss of PTEN affects the immune response at two different levels and might therefore be instrumental in mediating failed responses to immunotherapy. In this review, we summarise findings that demonstrate how the loss of PTEN function elicits specific changes in the immune response in several types of cancer. We also discuss ongoing clinical trials that illustrate the potential utility of PTEN as a predictive biomarker for immune checkpoint blockade therapies.
  3. Cold Spring Harb Mol Case Stud. 2020 Apr 23. pii: mcs.a005181. [Epub ahead of print]
      Proteus syndrome is mosaic disorder that can cause progressive postnatal overgrowth of nearly any organ or tissue. To date, Proteus syndrome has been exclusively associated with the mosaic c.49G>A p.(Glu17Lys) pathogenic variant in AKT1, a variant that is also present in many cancers. Here we describe an individual with severe Proteus syndrome who died at 7.5 years of age from combined parenchymal and restrictive pulmonary disease. Remarkably, this individual was found to harbor a mosaic c.49_50delinsAG p.(Glu17Arg) variant in AKT1 at a variant allele fraction that ranged from <0.01 to 0.46 in fibroblasts established from an overgrown digit. This variant was demonstrated to be constitutively activating by phosphorylation of AKT(S473). These data document allelic heterogeneity for Proteus syndrome. We recommend that individuals with a potential clinical diagnosis of Proteus syndrome who are negative for the p.(Glu17Lys) variant be tested for other variants in AKT1.
    Keywords:  Contractures of the large joints; Fibrocystic lung disease; Increased adipose tissue; Lower limb asymmetry; Overgrowth; Upper limb asymmetry; Venous malformation
  4. Autophagy. 2020 Apr 22. 1-11
      During macroautophagy/autophagy, the ULK complex nucleates autophagic precursors, which give rise to autophagosomes. We analyzed, by live imaging and mathematical modeling, the translocation of ATG13 (part of the ULK complex) to the autophagic puncta in starvation-induced autophagy and ivermectin-induced mitophagy. In nonselective autophagy, the intensity and duration of ATG13 translocation approximated a normal distribution, whereas wortmannin reduced this effect and shifted to a log-normal distribution. During mitophagy, multiple translocations of ATG13 with increasing time between peaks were observed. We hypothesized that these multiple translocations arise because the engulfment of mitochondrial fragments required successive nucleation of phagophores on the same target, and a mathematical model based on this idea reproduced the oscillatory behavior. Significantly, model and experimental data were also in agreement that the number of ATG13 translocations is directly proportional to the diameter of the targeted mitochondrial fragments. Thus, our data provide novel insights into the early dynamics of selective and nonselective autophagy.Abbreviations: ATG: autophagy related 13; CFP: cyan fluorescent protein; dsRED: Discosoma red fluorescent protein; GABARAP: GABA type A receptor-associated protein; GFP: green fluorescent protein; IVM: ivermectin; MAP1LC3/LC3: microtubule-associated protein 1 light chain 3; MTORC1: mechanistic target of rapamycin kinase complex 1; PIK3C3/VPS34: phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase catalytic subunit type 3; PtdIns3P: PtdIns-3-phosphate; ULK: unc-51 like autophagy activating kinase.
    Keywords:  ATG13; LC3; ULK; autophagy; mathematical modeling; mitophagy
  5. Nat Cell Biol. 2020 Apr 20.
      Leukaemia stem cells (LSCs) underlie cancer therapy resistance but targeting these cells remains difficult. The Wnt-β-catenin and PI3K-Akt pathways cooperate to promote tumorigenesis and resistance to therapy. In a mouse model in which both pathways are activated in stem and progenitor cells, LSCs expanded under chemotherapy-induced stress. Since Akt can activate β-catenin, inhibiting this interaction might target therapy-resistant LSCs. High-throughput screening identified doxorubicin (DXR) as an inhibitor of the Akt-β-catenin interaction at low doses. Here we repurposed DXR as a targeted inhibitor rather than a broadly cytotoxic chemotherapy. Targeted DXR reduced Akt-activated β-catenin levels in chemoresistant LSCs and reduced LSC tumorigenic activity. Mechanistically, β-catenin binds multiple immune-checkpoint gene loci, and targeted DXR treatment inhibited expression of multiple immune checkpoints specifically in LSCs, including PD-L1, TIM3 and CD24. Overall, LSCs exhibit distinct properties of immune resistance that are reduced by inhibiting Akt-activated β-catenin. These findings suggest a strategy for overcoming cancer therapy resistance and immune escape.
  6. Trends Biochem Sci. 2020 May;pii: S0968-0004(20)30050-5. [Epub ahead of print]45(5): 367-369
      Using cryo-electron microscopy and molecular characterization, David Sabatini and colleagues provide crucial new insights that validate and expand their model of how amino acids are sensed and signal at the lysosome to activate mechanistic target of rapamycin complex 1 (mTORC1) and cell growth-regulating processes. This work also reveals new therapeutic opportunities for mTORC1-driven diseases.
  7. Int J Mol Sci. 2020 Apr 21. pii: E2907. [Epub ahead of print]21(8):
      Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is a heterogeneous group of diseases characterized by uncontrolled proliferation of hematopoietic stem cells in the bone marrow. Malignant cell growth is characterized by disruption of normal intracellular signaling, caused by mutations or aberrant external signaling. The phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K)-Akt-mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) pathway (PI3K-Akt-mTOR pathway) is among one of the intracellular pathways aberrantly upregulated in cancers including AML. Activation of this pathway seems important in leukemogenesis, and given the central role of this pathway in metabolism, the bioenergetics of AML cells may depend on downstream signaling within this pathway. Furthermore, observations suggest that constitutive activation of the PI3K-Akt-mTOR pathway differs between patients, and that increased activity within this pathway is an adverse prognostic parameter in AML. Pharmacological targeting of the PI3K-Akt-mTOR pathway with specific inhibitors results in suppression of leukemic cell growth. However, AML patients seem to differ regarding their susceptibility to various small-molecule inhibitors, reflecting biological heterogeneity in the intracellular signaling status. These findings should be further investigated in both preclinical and clinical settings, along with the potential use of this pathway as a prognostic biomarker, both in patients receiving intensive curative AML treatment and in elderly/unfit receiving AML-stabilizing treatment.
    Keywords:  AML; Akt; PI3K; chemotherapy; mTOR; metabolism; signaling
  8. Int J Oncol. 2020 Apr 08.
      In contrast to normal cells, cancer cells typically undergo metabolic reprogramming. Studies have shown that oncogenes play an important role in this metabolic reprogramming. CD38 is a multifunctional transmembrane protein that is expressed abnormally in a variety of tumor types. To investigate the effect and possible mechanism of CD38 in cervical cancer cells and to provide a new therapeutic target for the treatment of cervical cancer, the present study identified that CD38 is involved in regulating cell metabolism in cervical cancer cells. Liquid chromatography‑tandem mass spectrometry and bioinformatic analyses revealed that differentially abundant proteins in CD38‑overexpressed cervical cancer cells (CaSki‑CD38 and HeLa‑CD38) are predominantly involved in glycolytic pathways, oxidative phosphorylation and the NAD/NADH metabolic process. Further experiments using an ATP test kit and lactate test kit revealed that CD38 promotes glucose consumption, increases lactate accumulation and increases ATP production. In addition, CD38 increases the phosphorylation of phosphatidylserine/threonine kinase (AKT), mechanistic target of rapamycin (mTOR) and phosphatidylinositol‑4,5‑bisphosphate 3‑kinase (PI3K), which play a key role in tumor metabolism. Furthermore, it was found that the energy metabolism of cervical cancer cells was inhibited following treatment with the mTOR inhibitor rapamycin. In conclusion, the results of the present study suggested that CD38 regulates the metabolism of cervical cancer cells by regulating the PI3K/AKT/mTOR pathway, which may be a candidate target for the treatment of cervical cancer.
  9. Front Oncol. 2020 ;10 499
      The epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) represents a biological program during which epithelial cells lose their cell identity and acquire a mesenchymal phenotype. EMT is normally observed during organismal development, wound healing and tissue fibrosis. However, this process can be hijacked by cancer cells and is often associated with resistance to apoptosis, acquisition of tissue invasiveness, cancer stem cell characteristics, and cancer treatment resistance. It is becoming evident that EMT is a complex, multifactorial spectrum, often involving episodic, transient or partial events. Multiple factors have been causally implicated in EMT including transcription factors (e.g., SNAIL, TWIST, ZEB), epigenetic modifications, microRNAs (e.g., miR-200 family) and more recently, long non-coding RNAs. However, the relevance of metabolic pathways in EMT is only recently being recognized. Importantly, alterations in key metabolic pathways affect cancer development and progression. In this review, we report the roles of key EMT factors and describe their interactions and interconnectedness. We introduce metabolic pathways that are involved in EMT, including glycolysis, the TCA cycle, lipid and amino acid metabolism, and characterize the relationship between EMT factors and cancer metabolism. Finally, we present therapeutic opportunities involving EMT, with particular focus on cancer metabolic pathways.
    Keywords:  EMT; cancer metabolism; metabolic pathways; non-coding RNAs; transcription factors
  10. BMC Cancer. 2020 Apr 23. 20(1): 347
      INTRODUCTION: The relationships among PIK3CA mutations, medication use and tumor progression remains poorly understood. Aspirin use post-diagnosis may modify components of the PI3K pathway, including AKT and mTOR, and has been associated with lower risk of breast cancer recurrence and mortality. We assessed time to metastasis (TTM) and survival with respect to aspirin use and tumor PIK3CA mutations among women with metastatic breast cancer.METHODS: Patients with hormone receptor positive, HER2 negative (HR+/HER2-) metastatic breast cancer treated in 2009-2016 who received tumor genotyping were included. Aspirin use between primary and metastatic diagnosis was extracted from electronic medical records. TTM and survival were estimated using Cox proportional hazards regression.
    RESULTS: Among 267 women with metastatic breast cancer, women with PIK3CA mutated tumors had longer TTM than women with PIK3CA wildtype tumors (7.1 vs. 4.7 years, p = 0.008). There was a significant interaction between PIK3CA mutations and aspirin use on TTM (p = 0.006) and survival (p = 0.026). PIK3CA mutations were associated with longer TTM among aspirin non-users (HR = 0.60 95% CI:0.44-0.82 p = 0.001) but not among aspirin users (HR = 1.57 0.86-2.84 p = 0.139). Similarly, PIK3CA mutations were associated with reduced mortality among aspirin non-users (HR = 0.70 95% CI:0.48-1.02 p = 0.066) but not among aspirin users (HR = 1.75 95% CI:0.88-3.49 p = 0.110).
    CONCLUSIONS: Among women who develop metastatic breast cancer, tumor PIK3CA mutations are associated with slower time to progression and mortality only among aspirin non-users. Larger studies are needed to confirm this finding and examine the relationship among aspirin use, tumor mutation profile, and the overall risk of breast cancer progression.
    Keywords:  Aspirin; Breast cancer; Metastasis; PIK3CA
  11. Oncogene. 2020 Apr 19.
      Combination of CDK4/6 inhibitors and endocrine therapy improves clinical outcome in advanced oestrogen receptor (ER)-positive breast cancer, however relapse is inevitable. Here, we show in model systems that other than loss of RB1 few gene-copy number (CN) alterations are associated with irreversible-resistance to endocrine therapy and subsequent secondary resistance to palbociclib. Resistance to palbociclib occurred as a result of tumour cell re-wiring leading to increased expression of EGFR, MAPK, CDK4, CDK2, CDK7, CCNE1 and CCNE2. Resistance altered the ER genome wide-binding pattern, leading to decreased expression of 'classical' oestrogen-regulated genes and was accompanied by reduced sensitivity to fulvestrant and tamoxifen. Persistent CDK4 blockade decreased phosphorylation of tuberous sclerosis complex 2 (TSC2) enhancing EGFR signalling, leading to the re-wiring of ER. Kinome-knockdown confirmed dependency on ERBB-signalling and G2/M-checkpoint proteins such as WEE1, together with the cell cycle master regulator, CDK7. Noteworthy, sensitivity to CDK7 inhibition was associated with loss of ER and RB1 CN. Overall, we show that resistance to CDK4/6 inhibitors is dependent on kinase re-wiring and the redeployment of signalling cascades previously associated with endocrine resistance and highlights new therapeutic networks that can be exploited upon relapse after CDK4/6 inhibition.
  12. Clin Cancer Res. 2020 Apr 20. pii: clincanres.3953.2019. [Epub ahead of print]
      PURPOSE: The activating mutation AKT1 E17K occurs in ~7% of ER+ metastatic breast cancer (MBC). We report, from a multipart, first-in-human, Phase I study (NCT01226316), tolerability and activity of capivasertib, an oral AKT inhibitor, as monotherapy or combined with fulvestrant in expansion cohorts of AKT1 E17K-mutant ER+ MBC patients.PATIENTS AND METHODS: Patients with an AKT1 E17K mutation, detected by local (NGS) or central (plasma-based BEAMing) testing, received capivasertib 480 mg bid, 4 days on, 3 days off, weekly or 400 mg bid combined with fulvestrant at the labeled dose. Study endpoints included safety, objective response rate (ORR; RECIST v1.1), progression-free survival (PFS) and clinical benefit rate at 24 weeks (CBR24). Biomarker analyses were conducted in the combination cohort.
    RESULTS: From October 2013 to August 2018, 63 heavily pretreated patients received capivasertib (20 monotherapy, 43 combination). ORR was 20% with monotherapy, and within the combination cohort was 36% in fulvestrant-pretreated and 20% in fulvestrant-naïve patients, although this latter group may have had more aggressive disease at baseline. AKT1 E17K mutations were detectable in plasma by BEAMing (95%, 41/43), ddPCR (80%, 33/41) and NGS (76%, 31/41). A 50% decrease in AKT1 E17K at cycle 2 day 1 was associated with improved PFS. Combination therapy appeared more tolerable than monotherapy (most frequent grade ≥3 adverse events: rash [9% vs 20%], hyperglycemia [5% vs 30%], diarrhea [5% vs 10%]).
    CONCLUSIONS: Capivasertib demonstrated clinically meaningful activity in heavily pretreated AKT1 E17K-mutant ER+ MBC patients, including those with prior disease progression on fulvestrant. Tolerability and activity appeared improved by the combination.
  13. Oncoimmunology. 2020 ;9(1): 1729299
      The T-cell inhibitory molecule PD-L1 is expressed on a fraction of breast cancer cells. The distribution of PD-L1 on the different subpopulations of breast cancer cells is not well-defined. Our aim was to study the expression level of PD-L1 on breast cancer stem-like (CSC-like) cells and their differentiated-like counterparts. We used multi-parametric flow cytometry to measure PD-L1 expression in different subpopulations of breast cancer cells. Pathway inhibitors, quantitative immunofluorescence, cell sorting, and western blot were used to investigate the underlying mechanism of PD-L1 upregulation in CSC-like cells. Specifically, PD-L1 was overexpressed up to three folds on breast CSC-like cells compared with more differentiated-like cancer cells. Functional in vitro and in vivo assays show higher stemness of PD-L1hi as compared with PD-L1lo cells. Among different pathways examined, PD-L1 expression on CSCs was partly dependant on Notch, and/or PI3K/AKT pathway activation. The effect of Notch inhibitors on PD-L1 overexpression in CSCs was completely abrogated upon mTOR knockdown. Specific knockdown of different Notch receptors shows Notch3 as a mediator for PD-L1 overexpression on CSCs and important for maintaining their stemness. Indeed, Notch3 was found to be overexpressed on PD-L1hi cells and specific knockdown of Notch3 abolished the effect of notch inhibitors and ligands on PD-L1 expression as well as mTOR activation. Our data demonstrated that overexpression of PD-L1 on CSCs is partly mediated by the notch pathway through Notch3/mTOR axis. We propose that these findings will help in a better design of anti-PD-L1 combination therapies to treat breast cancer effectively.
    Keywords:  Jag1; Notch3; PD-L1; breast Cancer; cancer Stem cells; mTOR
  14. Trends Cancer. 2020 Apr 17. pii: S2405-8033(20)30120-5. [Epub ahead of print]
      Tissue regeneration relies on adult stem cells (SCs) that possess the ability to self-renew and produce differentiating progeny. In an analogous manner, the development of certain cancers depends on a subset of tumor cells, called cancer stem cells (CSCs), with SC-like properties. In addition to being responsible for tumorigenesis, CSCs exhibit elevated resistance to therapy and thus drive tumor relapse post-treatment. The epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) programs promote SC and CSC stemness in many epithelial tissues. Here, we provide an overview of the mechanisms underlying the relationship between stemness and EMT programs, which may represent therapeutic vulnerabilities for the treatment of cancers.
    Keywords:  EMT; cancer stem cells; stemness