Tumour biology : the journal of the International Society for Oncodevelopmental Biology and Medicine

VHL-deficient renal cancer cells gain resistance to mitochondria-activating apoptosis inducers by activating AKT through the IGF1R-PI3K pathway.

PMID 27460078


We previously developed (2-deoxyglucose)-(ABT-263) combination therapy (2DG-ABT), which induces apoptosis by activating Bak in the mitochondria of highly glycolytic cells with varied genetic backgrounds. However, the rates of apoptosis induced by 2DG-ABT were lower in von Hippel-Lindau (VHL)-deficient cancer cells. The re-expression of VHL protein in these cells lowered IGF1R expression in a manner independent of oxygen concentration. Lowering IGF1R expression via small interfering RNA (siRNA) sensitized the cells to 2DG-ABT, suggesting that IGF1R interfered with the activation of apoptosis by the mitochondria. To determine which of the two pathways activated by IGF1R, the Ras-ERK pathway or the PI3K-AKT pathway, was involved in the impairment of mitochondria activation, the cells were treated with a specific inhibitor of either PI3K or ERK, and 2DG-ABT was added to activate the mitochondria. The apoptotic rates resulting from 2DG-ABT treatment were higher in the cells treated with the PI3K inhibitor, while the rates remained approximately the same in the cells treated with the ERK inhibitor. In 2DG-ABT-sensitive cells, a 4-h 2DG treatment caused the dissociation of Mcl-1 from Bak, while ABT treatment alone caused the dissociation of Bcl-xL from Bak without substantially reducing Mcl-1 levels. In 2DG-ABT-resistant cells, Mcl-1 dissociated from Bak only when AKT activity was inhibited during the 4-h 2DG treatment. Thus, in VHL-deficient cells, IGF1R activated AKT and stabilized the Bak-Mcl-1 complex, thereby conferring cell resistance to apoptosis.