Parallel PI3K, AKT and mTOR inhibition is required to control feedback loops that limit tumor therapy

Anuja Sathe, Géraldine Chalaud, Immanuel Oppolzer, Kit Yeng Wong, Margarita von Busch, Sebastian C. Schmid, Zhichao Tong, Margitta Retz, Juergen E. Gschwend, Wolfgang A. Schulz, Roman Nawroth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


Targeting the PI3K pathway has achieved limited success in cancer therapy. One reason for the disappointing activity of drugs that interfere with molecules that are important player in this pathway is the induction of multiple feedback loops that have been only partially understood. To understand these limitations and develop improved treatment strategies, we comprehensively characterized molecular mechanisms of PI3K pathway signaling in bladder cancer cell lines upon using small molecule inhibitors and RNAi technologies against all key molecules and protein complexes within the pathway and analyzed functional and molecular consequences. When targeting either mTORC1, mTOR, AKT or PI3K, only S6K1 phosphorylation was affected in most cell lines examined. Dephosphorylation of 4E-BP1 required combined inhibition of PI3K and mTORC1, independent from AKT, and resulted in a robust reduction in cell viability. Long-term inhibition of PI3K however resulted in a PDK1-dependent, PIP3 and mTORC2 independent rephosphorylation of AKT. AKT rephosphorylation could also be induced by mTOR or PDK1 inhibition. Combining PI3K/mTOR inhibitors with AKT or PDK1 inhibitors suppressed this rephosphorylation, induced apoptosis, decreased colony formation, cell viability and growth of tumor xenografts. Our findings reveal novel molecular mechanisms that explain the requirement for simultaneous targeting of PI3K, AKT and mTORC1 to achieve effective tumor growth inhibition.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0190854
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2018
Externally publishedYes


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