Research Papers:

Delineating the distinct role of AKT in mediating cell survival and proliferation induced by CD154 and IL-4/IL-21 in chronic lymphocytic leukemia

Elinor A. Chapman, Melanie Oates, Ishaque S. Mohammad, Barry R. Davies, Paul K. Stockman, Jianguo Zhuang _ and Andrew R. Pettitt

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Oncotarget. 2017; 8:102948-102964. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.22292

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Elinor A. Chapman1, Melanie Oates1, Ishaque S. Mohammad1, Barry R. Davies2, Paul K. Stockman2, Jianguo Zhuang1 and Andrew R. Pettitt1,3

1Department of Molecular and Clinical Cancer Medicine, University of Liverpool, Liverpool, UK

2Oncology iMED, AstraZeneca, Cambridge, UK

3Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospitals NHS Trust, Liverpool, UK

Correspondence to:

Jianguo Zhuang, email: [email protected]

Keywords: CLL; CD40 stimulation; AKT; proliferation; survival

Received: November 16, 2016     Accepted: October 25, 2017     Published: November 07, 2017


The functional significance of AKT in chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) remains unclear. Given the importance of non-malignant T cells in regulating clonal expansion in CLL, we investigated the role of AKT in T cell-mediated cytoprotection and proliferation using an established co-culture system in which primary CLL cells were incubated on a monolayer of transfected mouse fibroblasts expressing human CD40L (CD154). Stimulation of CLL cells via CD40 induced activation of AKT, which was closely associated with downregulation of its negative regulator PTEN, and protected CLL cells from killing by bendamustine. This cytoprotective effect of CD40 stimulation was prevented by a selective inhibitor of AKT. Stimulation of CLL cells with CD154 + IL-4 or IL-21 induced proliferation detected as reduced fluorescence of cells pre-stained with CFSE. AKT inhibition produced a significant, consistent reduction in proliferation induced by CD154 + IL-4 and a reduction in proliferation induced by CD154 + IL-21 in most but not all cases. In contrast, AKT inhibition had no effect on the proliferation of normal B cells induced by CD154 + IL-4 or IL-21. These findings indicate that AKT contributes in a significant way to T-cell mediated survival and proliferation signalling in CLL and support the clinical evaluation of AKT inhibitors in this disease.

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