Oncology letters

Dysregulation of the PI3K/Akt signaling pathway affects cell cycle and apoptosis of side population cells in nasopharyngeal carcinoma.

PMID 26170996


Increasing evidence has suggested that certain types of cancer possess their own stem-like cells, and that one subset of these cells, termed the side population (SP), may have an important role in tumorigenesis and cancer therapy. However, the molecular mechanisms underlying the modulation of SP cells in nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC) have remained elusive. In the present study, it was hypothesized that dysregulation of the phosphatidylinositol-4,5-bisphosphate 3-kinase (PI3K)/Akt signaling pathway may influence SP and non-SP (NSP) phenotype. SP cells from the HK-1 NPC cell line were identified, and cancer stem cell markers were found to be highly expressed in SP cells compared with that of NSP cells. Freshly sorted SP cells demonstrated a significant increase in the proportion of cells in G0/G1 phase, while the majority of NSP cells were in the proliferative phase. Following 48 h of culture subsequent to cell sorting, the differences in cell cycle distribution between the SP and NSP cells converged. In addition, the apoptotic ratio of NSP cells was higher than that of SP cells at 24 h following sorting, but had no significant differences 48 h following sorting. To elucidate the potential mechanism mediating the cell cycle and apoptosis in SP cells, the expression levels of key molecules in the PI3K/Akt signaling pathway were evaluated. PI3K and Akt were upregulated, while 14-3-3σ protein was downregulated in SP cells when freshly sorted (0 h). However, there was no significant difference in the expression of these molecules between SP and NSP cells following 48 h of culture. These results suggested that dysregulation of the PI3K/Akt signaling pathway may be associated with the cell cycle and apoptosis of SP cells in NPC. However, further investigation is required to elucidate the detailed mechanisms underlying these effects.