Hyperactivation of the phosphatydil-inositol-3' phosphate kinase (PI3K)/AKT pathway is observed in most NSCLCs, promoting proliferation, migration, invasion and resistance to therapy. AKT can be activated through several mechanisms that include loss of the negative regulator PTEN, activating mutations of the catalytic subunit of PI3K (PIK3CA) and/or mutations of AKT1 itself. However, number and identity of downstream targets of activated PI3K/AKT pathway are poorly defined. To identify the genes that are targets of constitutive PI3K/AKT signalling in lung cancer cells, we performed a comparative transcriptomic analysis of human lung epithelial cells (BEAS-2B) expressing active mutant AKT1 (AKT1-E17K), active mutant PIK3CA (PIK3CA-E545K) or that are silenced for PTEN. We found that, altogether, aberrant PI3K/AKT signalling in lung epithelial cells regulated the expression of 1,960/20,436 genes (9%), though only 30 differentially expressed genes (DEGs) (15 up-regulated, 12 down-regulated and 3 discordant) out of 20,436 that were common among BEAS-AKT1-E17K, BEAS-PIK3CA-E545K and BEAS-shPTEN cells (0.1%). Conversely, DEGs specific for mutant AKT1 were 133 (85 up-regulated; 48 down-regulated), DEGs specific for mutant PIK3CA were 502 (280 up-regulated; 222 down-regulated) and DEGs specific for PTEN loss were 1549 (799 up-regulated, 750 down-regulated). The results obtained from array analysis were confirmed by quantitative RT-PCR on selected up-and down-regulated genes (n = 10). Treatment of BEAS-C cells and the corresponding derivatives with pharmacological inhibitors of AKT (MK2206) or PI3K (LY294002) further validated the significance of our findings. Moreover, mRNA expression of selected DEGs (SGK1, IGFBP3, PEG10, GDF15, PTGES, S100P, respectively) correlated with the activation status of the PI3K/AKT pathway assessed by S473 phosphorylation in NSCLC cell lines (n = 6). Finally, we made use of Ingenuity Pathway Analysis (IPA) to investigate the relevant BioFunctions enriched by the costitutive activation of AKT1-, PI3K-or PTEN-dependent signalling in lung epithelial cells. Expectedly, the analysis of the DEGs common to all three alterations highlighted a group of BioFunctions that included Cell Proliferation of tumor cell lines (14 DEGs), Invasion of cells (10 DEGs) and Migration of tumour cell lines (10 DEGs), with a common core of 5 genes (ATF3, CDKN1A, GDF15, HBEGF and LCN2) that likely represent downstream effectors of the pro-oncogenic activities of PI3K/AKT signalling. Conversely, IPA analysis of exclusive DEGs led to the identification of different downstream effectors that are modulated by mutant AKT1 (TGFBR2, CTSZ, EMP1), mutant PIK3CA (CCND2, CDK2, IGFBP2, TRIB1) and PTEN loss (ASNS, FHL2). These findings not only shed light on the molecular mechanisms that are activated by aberrant signalling through the PI3K/AKT pathway in lung epithelial cells, but also contribute to the identification of previously unrecognised molecules whose regulation takes part in the development of lung cancer.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)