, Volume 9, Issue 6, pp 667-676

PI3K-Akt pathway: Its functions and alterations in human cancer

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Abstract

Phosphatidylinositol-3-kinase (PI3K) is a lipid kinase and generates phosphatidylinositol-3,4,5-trisphosphate (PI(3, 4, 5)P3). PI(3, 4, 5)P3 is a second messenger essential for the translocation of Akt to the plasma membrane where it is phosphorylated and activated by phosphoinositide-dependent kinase (PDK) 1 and PDK2. Activation of Akt plays a pivotal role in fundamental cellular functions such as cell proliferation and survival by phosphorylating a variety of substrates. In recent years, it has been reported that alterations to the PI3K-Akt signaling pathway are frequent in human cancer. Constitutive activation of the PI3K-Akt pathway occurs due to amplification of the PIK3C gene encoding PI3K or the Akt gene, or as a result of mutations in components of the pathway, for example PTEN (phosphatase and tensin homologue deleted on chromosome 10), which inhibit the activation of Akt. Several small molecules designed to specifically target PI3K-Akt have been developed, and induced cell cycle arrest or apoptosis in human cancer cells in vitro and in vivo. Moreover, the combination of an inhibitor with various cytotoxic agents enhances the anti-tumor efficacy. Therefore, specific inhibition of the activation of Akt may be a valid approach to treating human malignancies and overcoming the resistance of cancer cells to radiation or chemotherapy.