The lethal effects of pharmacological cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitors in human leukemia cells proceed through a phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase/Akt-dependent process

Chunrong Yu, Mohamed Rahmani, Yun Dai, Daniel Conrad, Geoffrey Krystal, Paul Dent, Steven Grant

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104 Scopus citations


The impact of disruption of the PI3K (phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase) pathway on the response of human leukemia cells to pharmacological cyclin-dependent kinase (CDK) inhibitors has been examined. Exposure of U937 monocytic leukemia cells to minimally toxic concentrations of flavopiridol (FP), roscovitine, or CGP74514A for 3 h in conjunction with the PI3K inhibitor LY294002 (abbreviated LY in the article) resulted in a marked decrease in Akt phosphorylation. Coexposure of cells to LY and CDK inhibitors also resulted in an early (i.e., within 3 h) and striking increase in mitochondrial damage [e.g., cytochrome c, second mitochondria-derived activator of caspases/direct inhibitor of apoptosis (IAP)-binding protein with low isoclectric point (Smac/DIABLO), and apoptosis-initiating factor (AIF) release], caspase activation, and apoptosis. Similar interactions were observed in a variety of other leukemia cell types (e.g., HL-60, Jurkat, Raji, and NB4). Apoptosis, induced by FP/LY, was substantially blocked by ectopic expression of Bcl-2, but to a considerably lesser extent by dominant-negative caspase-8. FP-induced apoptosis was not enhanced by agents that inhibited protein kinase (PK) A (H89), PKC (GFX), mitogen-activated protein (MAP)/extracellular signal -regulated kinase (ERK) kinase (MEK1/2; U0126), p38 MAP kinase (MAPK; SB202190), m-target of rapamycin (TOR; rapamycin), or ataxia-telangiectasia mutation (ATM; caffeine), whereas the PI3K inhibitor wortmannin exerted effects similar to those of LY. The dramatic potentiation of CDK inhibitor-induced apoptosis by LY was accompanied by diminished Bad phosphorylation, induction of Bcl-2 cleavage, and down-regulation of X-linked IAP (XIAP) and Mcl-1. Cells exposed to CDK inhibitors + LY also exhibited reduced phosphorylation of glycogen synthase kinase (GSK)-3, forkhead transcription factor (FKHR), p70S6K, and ERK, but increased activation of p34cdc2 and p38 MAPK. LY/CDK inhibitor-treated cells also displayed diminished pRb dephosphorylation on CDK2- and CDK4-specific sites, retinoblastoma protein cleavage, and down-regulation of cyclin D1. Inducible expression of constitutively active (myristolated) Akt significantly, albeit partially, attenuated apoptosis in Jurkat leukemia cells treated with either FP alone or the combination of FP and LY. Finally, cotreatment with LY and FP resulted in a dramatic increase in apoptosis in primary leukemic blasts obtained from a patient with acute myeloblastic leukemia. Together, these findings suggest that the PI3K/Akt pathway plays a major role in regulating the apoptotic response of human leukemia cells to pharmacological CDK inhibitors and raise the possibility that combined interruption of CDK- and PI3K-related pathways may represent a novel therapeutic strategy in hematological malignancies.

Original languageBritish English
Pages (from-to)1822-1833
Number of pages12
JournalCancer Research
Issue number8
StatePublished - 15 Apr 2003


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