Dual PI3K/mTOR Inhibitors Induce Rapid Overactivation of the MEK/ERK Pathway in Human Pancreatic Cancer Cells through Suppression of mTORC2.

Research paper by Heloisa P HP Soares, Ming M Ming, Michelle M Mellon, Steven H SH Young, Liang L Han, James J Sinnet-Smith, Enrique E Rozengurt

Indexed on: 13 Feb '15Published on: 13 Feb '15Published in: Molecular cancer therapeutics


The PI3K/AKT/mTOR pathway, which is aberrantly stimulated in many cancer cells, has emerged as a target for therapy. However, mTORC1/S6K also mediates negative feedback loops that attenuate upstream signaling. Suppression of these feedback loops opposes the growth-suppressive effects of mTOR inhibitors and leads to drug resistance. Here, we demonstrate that treatment of PANC-1 or MiaPaCa-2 pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) cells with the dual PI3K/mTOR kinase inhibitor (PI3K/TOR-KI) BEZ235 blocked mTORC1/S6K activation (scored by S6 phosphorylation at Ser(240/244)), mTORC1/4E-BP1 (assayed by 4E-BP1 phosphorylation at Thr(37/46)), and mTORC2-mediated AKT phosphorylation at Ser(473), in a concentration-dependent manner. Strikingly, BEZ235 markedly enhanced the MEK/ERK pathway in a dose-dependent manner. Maximal ERK overactivation coincided with complete inhibition of phosphorylation of AKT and 4E-BP1. ERK overactivation was induced by other PI3K/TOR-KIs, including PKI-587 and GDC-0980. The MEK inhibitors U126 or PD0325901 prevented ERK overactivation induced by PI3K/TOR-KIs. The combination of BEZ235 and PD0325901 caused a more pronounced inhibition of cell growth than that produced by each inhibitor individually. Mechanistic studies assessing PI3K activity in single PDAC cells indicate that PI3K/TOR-KIs act through a PI3K-independent pathway. Doses of PI3K/TOR-KIs that enhanced MEK/ERK activation coincided with those that inhibited mTORC2-mediated AKT phosphorylation on Ser(473), suggesting a role of mTORC2. Knockdown of RICTOR via transfection of siRNA markedly attenuated the enhancing effect of BEZ235 on ERK phosphorylation. We propose that dual PI3K/mTOR inhibitors suppress a novel negative feedback loop mediated by mTORC2, thereby leading to enhanced MEK/ERK pathway activity in pancreatic cancer cells.

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