Research ArticleCancer

MicroRNAs Differentially Regulated by Akt Isoforms Control EMT and Stem Cell Renewal in Cancer Cells

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Sci. Signal.  13 Oct 2009:
Vol. 2, Issue 92, pp. ra62
DOI: 10.1126/scisignal.2000356

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Although Akt is known to play a role in human cancer, the relative contribution of its three isoforms to oncogenesis remains to be determined. We expressed each isoform individually in an Akt1−/−/Akt2−/−/Akt3−/− cell line. MicroRNA profiling of growth factor–stimulated cells revealed unique microRNA signatures for cells with each isoform. Among the differentially regulated microRNAs, the abundance of the miR-200 family was decreased in cells bearing Akt2. Knockdown of Akt1 in transforming growth factor–β (TGFβ)–treated MCF10A cells also decreased the abundance of miR-200; however, knockdown of Akt2, or of both Akt1 and Akt2, did not. Furthermore, Akt1 knockdown in MCF10A cells promoted TGFβ-induced epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) and a stem cell–like phenotype. Carcinomas developing in MMTV-cErbB2/Akt1−/− mice showed increased invasiveness because of miR-200 down-regulation. Finally, the ratio of Akt1 to Akt2 and the abundance of miR-200 and of the messenger RNA encoding E-cadherin in a set of primary and metastatic human breast cancers were consistent with the hypothesis that in many cases breast cancer metastasis may be under the control of the Akt–miR-200–E-cadherin axis. We conclude that induction of EMT is controlled by microRNAs whose abundance depends on the balance between Akt1 and Akt2 rather than on the overall activity of Akt.

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