Dissection of the PI3K/Akt/mTOR pathway identifies potential therapeutic targets in canine tumours
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Introduction: Over the past decades, considerable advances in understanding of cell biology at genetic, epigenetic and proteomic levels led to development of new strategies for better outcome of cancer therapy. One of these new strategies is targeting the class I PI3K/Akt/mTOR signaling pathway, in that this pathway plays a key role in regulation of many cellular functions, including proliferation, survival, metabolism, autophagy and motility. Dysregulation of the class I PI3K/Akt/mTOR pathway has been documented in a variety of human tumours and inhibition of this pathway has been observed to hamper tumour proliferation in vitro and prevent tumour progression in vivo and in clinic. More recently, emerging evidence suggests that the class I PI3K/Akt/mTOR pathway is associated with Cancer Stem Cell (CSC) biology, in light of maintenance, viability and conventional therapy resistance of CSCs. The CSC theory conceptualizes that a subset of tumour cells with Stem Cell-like properties, including self-renewal, multipotency, differentiation, and resistance to chemotherapy and radiotherapy, can recapitulate new tumours and resistance to cancer therapy. Materials and Methods: To explore class I PI3K/Akt/mTOR signaling pathway and CSCs as therapeutic targets in canine oncology, in one series of experiments, smallmolecular inhibitors Wortmannin, ZSTK474, KP372-1 and Rapamycin, which selectively target pan-class I PI3K, pan-class I PI3K, Akt and mTOR, respectively, were utilized to treat canine cancer cell lines using inhibitors alone or in combination with conventional therapeutic drugs. The human acute lymphoblastic leukaemia of T-cell origin cell line (Jurkat T cell line) was used as a comparative control. In another, a stem cell culture system was performed to isolate CSCs from canine glioma J3T cell line. Subsequently, microarray analysis of transcriptional expression profiles of J3T spheres (the putative CSCs) versus J3T parental cells was performed. Results: In this study, small molecules ZSTK474 and KP372-1 were found to significantly decrease cell viability at lower micromolar and nanomolar ranges, respectively. Rapamycin decreased cell viability at lower micromolar concentrations. However, the efficacy of Wortmannin varied from one cell line to another. Dissection of the mechanism of these inhibitors using Western Blot analysis and annexin V staining showed that all inhibitors functioned by decreasing phosphorylation of class I PI3K pathway members. Notably, the efficacy of Wortmannin for this pathway inhibition is confined to certain cell lines. In addition, Wortmannin had shorter drug duration than the other three inhibitors. Annexin V staining showed that KP372-1 was a potent inducer of apoptosis, with decreasing potency in hierarchy order, Rapamycin, Wortmannin and ZSTK474. The data obtained from the combination of pan-class I PI3K inhibitor (Wortmannin or ZSTK474) and mTOR inhibitor (Rapamycin) suggested that additive/synergistic effects were, in part, due to inactivation of Akt. The class I PI3K pathway inhibitors enhanced the efficacy of Doxorubicin in SB cells but not in canine REM, 3132 and J3T cells. The CSC colonies of canine glioma J3T cells were successfully isolated and expanded in the neurosphere formation assay. By microarray analysis, several class I PI3K signaling network-associated genes, particularly IGFBP2 (27-fold), FYN (9.3- fold), and DDIT4 (8.5-fold), were found to be highly up-regulated in the J3T CSCs. However, the genes encoding components, such as Akt1 and eIF4E, of class I PI3K/Akt/mTOR axis signaling were either unchanged or down-regulated in the CSCs. The majority of the genes encoding translation initiation factors were also downregulated in the CSCs. Conclusions: This study demonstrates that class I PI3K/Akt/mTOR signaling pathway is critical for proliferation and survival of cell lines derived from human acute lymphoblastic leukemia of T cell origin (Jurkat T cell line) and a variety of canine tumours. However, it appears that this pathway is dispensible for maintainence and viability of the CSCs isolated from canine gloma J3T cell line. This study suggests that the strategy of dual inhibition of class I PI3K and mTOR kinases may have better outcomes than the combination inhibitors of this pathway (such as ZSTK474 and KP372-1) with Doxorubicin in canine oncology.