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The PI3K/Akt pathway plays a crucial role in the survival, proliferation, and migration of macrophages, which may impact the development of atherosclerosis. Changes in Akt isoforms or modulation of the Akt activity levels in macrophages significantly affect their polarization phenotype and consequently atherosclerosis in mice. Moreover, the activity levels of Akt signaling determine the viability of monocytes/macrophages and their resistance to pro-apoptotic stimuli in atherosclerotic lesions. Therefore, elimination of pro-apoptotic factors as well as factors that antagonize or suppress Akt signaling in macrophages increases cell viability, protecting them from apoptosis, and this markedly accelerates atherosclerosis in mice. In contrast, inhibition of Akt signaling by the ablation of Rictor in myeloid cells, which disrupts mTORC2 assembly, significantly decreases the viability and proliferation of blood monocytes and macrophages with the suppression of atherosclerosis. In addition, monocytes and macrophages exhibit a threshold effect for Akt protein levels in their ability to survive. Ablation of two Akt isoforms, preserving only a single Akt isoform in myeloid cells, markedly compromises monocyte and macrophage viability, inducing monocytopenia and diminishing early atherosclerosis. These recent advances in our understanding of Akt signaling in macrophages in atherosclerosis may have significant relevance in the burgeoning field of cardio-oncology, where PI3K/Akt inhibitors being tested in cancer patients can have significant cardiovascular and metabolic ramifications.
In IBD patients, integration between a hyper-activated immune system and epithelial cell plasticity underlies colon cancer development. However, molecular regulation of such a circuity remains undefined. Claudin-1 (Cld-1), a tight-junction integral protein deregulation alters colonic epithelial cell (CEC) differentiation, and promotes colitis severity while impairing colitis-associated injury/repair. Tumorigenesis is a product of an unregulated wound-healing process and therefore we postulated that upregulated Cld-1 levels render IBD patients susceptible to the colitis-associated cancer (CAC). Villin Cld-1 mice are used to carryout overexpressed studies in mice. The role of deregulated Cld-1 expression in CAC and the underlying mechanism was determined using a well-constructed study scheme and mouse models of DSS colitis/recovery and CAC. Using an inclusive investigative scheme, we here report that upregulated Cld-1 expression promotes susceptibility to the CAC and its malignancy. Increased mucosal inflammation and defective epithelial homeostasis accompanied the increased CAC in Villin-Cld-1-Tg mice. We further found significantly increased levels of protumorigenic M2 macrophages and β-cateninSer552 (β-CatSer552) expression in the CAC in Cld-1Tg vs. WT mice. Mechanistic studies identified the role of PI3K/Akt signaling in Cld-1-dependent activation of the β-CatSer552, which, in turn, was dependent on proinflammatory signals. Our studies identify a critical role of Cld-1 in promoting susceptibility to CAC. Importantly, these effects of deregulated Cld-1 were not associated with altered tight junction integrity, but on its noncanonical role in regulating Notch/PI3K/Wnt/ β-CatSer552 signaling. Overall, outcome from our current studies identifies Cld-1 as potential prognostic biomarker for IBD severity and CAC, and a novel therapeutic target.
Objective- Macrophages express 3 Akt (protein kinase B) isoforms, Akt1, Akt2, and Akt3, which display isoform-specific functions but may be redundant in terms of Akt survival signaling. We hypothesize that loss of 2 Akt isoforms in macrophages will suppress their ability to survive and modulate the development of atherosclerosis. Approach and Results- To test this hypothesis, we reconstituted male Ldlr mice with double Akt2/Akt3 knockout hematopoietic cells expressing only the Akt1 isoform (Akt1). There were no differences in body weight and plasma lipid levels between the groups after 8 weeks of the Western diet; however, Akt1→ Ldlr mice developed smaller (57.6% reduction) atherosclerotic lesions with more apoptotic macrophages than control mice transplanted with WT (wild type) cells. Next, male and female Ldlr mice were reconstituted with double Akt1/Akt2 knockout hematopoietic cells expressing the Akt3 isoform (Akt3). Female and male Akt3→ Ldlr recipients had significantly smaller (61% and 41%, respectively) lesions than the control WT→ Ldlr mice. Loss of 2 Akt isoforms in hematopoietic cells resulted in markedly diminished levels of white blood cells, B cells, and monocytes and compromised viability of monocytes and peritoneal macrophages compared with WT cells. In response to lipopolysaccharides, macrophages with a single Akt isoform expressed low levels of inflammatory cytokines; however, Akt1 macrophages were distinct in expressing high levels of antiapoptotic Il10 compared with WT and Akt3 cells. Conclusions- Loss of 2 Akt isoforms in hematopoietic cells, preserving only a single Akt1 or Akt3 isoform, markedly compromises monocyte and macrophage viability and diminishes early atherosclerosis in Ldlr mice.
The NAD+-dependent deacetylase SIRT2 is unique amongst sirtuins as it is effective in the cytosol, as well as the mitochondria. Defining the role of cytosolic acetylation state in specific tissues is difficult since even physiological effects at the whole body level are unknown. We hypothesized that genetic SIRT2 knockout (KO) would lead to impaired insulin action, and that this impairment would be worsened in HF fed mice. Insulin sensitivity was tested using the hyperinsulinemic-euglycemic clamp in SIRT2 KO mice and WT littermates. SIRT2 KO mice exhibited reduced skeletal muscle insulin-induced glucose uptake compared to lean WT mice, and this impairment was exacerbated in HF SIRT2 KO mice. Liver insulin sensitivity was unaffected in lean SIRT2 KO mice. However, the insulin resistance that accompanies HF-feeding was worsened in SIRT2 KO mice. It was notable that the effects of SIRT2 KO were largely disassociated from cytosolic acetylation state, but were closely linked to acetylation state in the mitochondria. SIRT2 KO led to an increase in body weight that was due to increased food intake in HF fed mice. In summary, SIRT2 deletion in vivo reduces muscle insulin sensitivity and contributes to liver insulin resistance by a mechanism that is unrelated to cytosolic acetylation state. Mitochondrial acetylation state and changes in feeding behavior that result in increased body weight correspond to the deleterious effects of SIRT2 KO on insulin action.
BACKGROUND - During pregnancy, as the mammary gland prepares for synthesis and delivery of milk to newborns, a luminal mammary epithelial cell (MEC) subpopulation proliferates rapidly in response to systemic hormonal cues that activate STAT5A. While the receptor tyrosine kinase ErbB4 is required for STAT5A activation in MECs during pregnancy, it is unclear how ErbB3, a heterodimeric partner of ErbB4 and activator of phosphatidyl inositol-3 kinase (PI3K) signaling, contributes to lactogenic expansion of the mammary gland.
METHODS - We assessed mRNA expression levels by expression microarray of mouse mammary glands harvested throughout pregnancy and lactation. To study the role of ErbB3 in mammary gland lactogenesis, we used transgenic mice expressing WAP-driven Cre recombinase to generate a mouse model in which conditional ErbB3 ablation occurred specifically in alveolar mammary epithelial cells (aMECs).
RESULTS - Profiling of RNA from mouse MECs isolated throughout pregnancy revealed robust Erbb3 induction during mid-to-late pregnancy, a time point when aMECs proliferate rapidly and undergo differentiation to support milk production. Litters nursed by ErbB3 dams weighed significantly less when compared to litters nursed by ErbB3 dams. Further analysis revealed substantially reduced epithelial content, decreased aMEC proliferation, and increased aMEC cell death during late pregnancy. Consistent with the potent ability of ErbB3 to activate cell survival through the PI3K/Akt pathway, we found impaired Akt phosphorylation in ErbB3 samples, as well as impaired expression of STAT5A, a master regulator of lactogenesis. Constitutively active Akt rescued cell survival in ErbB3-depleted aMECs, but failed to restore STAT5A expression or activity. Interestingly, defects in growth and survival of ErbB3 aMECs as well as Akt phosphorylation, STAT5A activity, and expression of milk-encoding genes observed in ErbB3 MECs progressively improved between late pregnancy and lactation day 5. We found a compensatory upregulation of ErbB4 activity in ErbB3 mammary glands. Enforced ErbB4 expression alleviated the consequences of ErbB3 ablation in aMECs, while combined ablation of both ErbB3 and ErbB4 exaggerated the phenotype.
CONCLUSIONS - These studies demonstrate that ErbB3, like ErbB4, enhances lactogenic expansion and differentiation of the mammary gland during pregnancy, through activation of Akt and STAT5A, two targets crucial for lactation.
Vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMCs) represent important modulators of plaque stability in advanced lesions. We previously reported that loss of small proline-rich repeat protein 3 (Sprr3), leads to VSMC apoptosis in a PI3K/Akt-dependent manner and accelerates lesion progression. Here, we investigated the role of Sprr3 in modulating plaque stability in hyperlipidemic ApoE-/- mice. We show that loss of Sprr3 increased necrotic core size and reduced cap collagen content of atheromas in brachiocephalic arteries with evidence of plaque rupture and development of intraluminal thrombi. Moreover, Sprr3-/-ApoE-/- mice developed advanced coronary artery lesions accompanied by intraplaque hemorrhage and left ventricle microinfarcts. SPRR3 is known to reduce VSMC survival in lesions by promoting their apoptosis. In addition, we demonstrated that Sprr3-/- VSMCs displayed reduced expression of procollagen in a PI3K/Akt dependent manner. SPRR3 loss also increased MMP gelatinase activity in lesions, and increased MMP2 expression, migration and contraction of VSMCs independently of PI3K/Akt. Consequently, Sprr3 represents the first described VSMC modulator of each of the critical features of cap stability, including VSMC numbers, collagen type I synthesis, and protease activity through Akt dependent and independent pathways.
BACKGROUND - The importance of the mTOR complex 2 (mTORC2) signaling complex in tumor progression is becoming increasingly recognized. HER2-amplified breast cancers use Rictor/mTORC2 signaling to drive tumor formation, tumor cell survival and resistance to human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2)-targeted therapy. Cell motility, a key step in the metastatic process, can be activated by mTORC2 in luminal and triple negative breast cancer cell lines, but its role in promoting metastases from HER2-amplified breast cancers is not yet clear.
METHODS - Because Rictor is an obligate cofactor of mTORC2, we genetically engineered Rictor ablation or overexpression in mouse and human HER2-amplified breast cancer models for modulation of mTORC2 activity. Signaling through mTORC2-dependent pathways was also manipulated using pharmacological inhibitors of mTOR, Akt, and Rac. Signaling was assessed by western analysis and biochemical pull-down assays specific for Rac-GTP and for active Rac guanine nucleotide exchange factors (GEFs). Metastases were assessed from spontaneous tumors and from intravenously delivered tumor cells. Motility and invasion of cells was assessed using Matrigel-coated transwell assays.
RESULTS - We found that Rictor ablation potently impaired, while Rictor overexpression increased, metastasis in spontaneous and intravenously seeded models of HER2-overexpressing breast cancers. Additionally, migration and invasion of HER2-amplified human breast cancer cells was diminished in the absence of Rictor, or upon pharmacological mTOR kinase inhibition. Active Rac1 was required for Rictor-dependent invasion and motility, which rescued invasion/motility in Rictor depleted cells. Rictor/mTORC2-dependent dampening of the endogenous Rac1 inhibitor RhoGDI2, a factor that correlated directly with increased overall survival in HER2-amplified breast cancer patients, promoted Rac1 activity and tumor cell invasion/migration. The mTORC2 substrate Akt did not affect RhoGDI2 dampening, but partially increased Rac1 activity through the Rac-GEF Tiam1, thus partially rescuing cell invasion/motility. The mTORC2 effector protein kinase C (PKC)α did rescue Rictor-mediated RhoGDI2 downregulation, partially rescuing Rac-guanosine triphosphate (GTP) and migration/motility.
CONCLUSION - These findings suggest that mTORC2 uses two coordinated pathways to activate cell invasion/motility, both of which converge on Rac1. Akt signaling activates Rac1 through the Rac-GEF Tiam1, while PKC signaling dampens expression of the endogenous Rac1 inhibitor, RhoGDI2.
Monoclonal antibodies targeting the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), cetuximab and panitumumab, are a mainstay of metastatic colorectal cancer (mCRC) treatment. However, a significant number of patients suffer from primary or acquired resistance. RAS mutations are negative predictors of clinical efficacy of anti-EGFR antibodies in patients with mCRC. Oncogenic RAS activates the MAPK and PI3K/AKT pathways, which are considered the main effectors of resistance. However, the relative impact of these pathways in RAS-mutant CRC is less defined. A better mechanistic understanding of RAS-mediated resistance may guide development of rational intervention strategies. To this end we developed cancer models for functional dissection of resistance to anti-EGFR therapy in vitro and in vivo. To selectively activate MAPK- or AKT-signaling we expressed conditionally activatable RAF-1 and AKT in cancer cells. We found that either pathway independently protected sensitive cancer models against anti-EGFR antibody treatment in vitro and in vivo. RAF-1- and AKT-mediated resistance was associated with increased expression of anti-apoptotic BCL-2 proteins. Biomarkers of MAPK and PI3K/AKT pathway activation correlated with inferior outcome in a cohort of mCRC patients receiving cetuximab-based therapy. Dual pharmacologic inhibition of PI3K and MEK successfully sensitized primary resistant CRC models to anti-EGFR therapy. In conclusion, combined targeting of MAPK and PI3K/AKT signaling, but not single pathways, may be required to enhance the efficacy of anti-EGFR antibody therapy in patients with RAS-mutated CRC as well as in RAS wild type tumors with clinical resistance.
The exocyst is an essential component of the secretory pathway required for delivery of basolateral proteins to the plasma membranes of epithelial cells. Delivery occurs adjacent to tight junctions (TJ), suggesting that it recognizes a receptor at this location. However, no such receptor has been identified. The Par3 polarity protein associates with TJs but has no known function in membrane traffic. We now show that, unexpectedly, Par3 is essential for mammary cell survival. Par3 silencing causes apoptosis, triggered by phosphoinositide trisphosphate depletion and decreased Akt phosphorylation, resulting from failure of the exocyst to deliver basolateral proteins to the cortex. A small region of PAR3 binds directly to Exo70 and is sufficient for exocyst docking, membrane-protein delivery and cell survival. PAR3 lacking this domain can associate with the cortex but cannot support exocyst function. We conclude that Par3 is the long-sought exocyst receptor required for targeted membrane-protein delivery.