Mutations in the phosphatase and tensin homolog (PTEN) gene leading to PTEN protein deletion and subsequent activation of the PI3K/Akt signaling pathway are common in cancer. Here we show that PTEN inactivation in human T cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (T-ALL) cells is not always synonymous with PTEN gene lesions and diminished protein expression. Samples taken from patients with T-ALL at the time of diagnosis very frequently showed constitutive hyperactivation of the PI3K/Akt pathway. In contrast to immortalized cell lines, most primary T-ALL cells did not harbor PTEN gene alterations, displayed normal PTEN mRNA levels, and expressed higher PTEN protein levels than normal T cell precursors. However, PTEN overexpression was associated with decreased PTEN lipid phosphatase activity, resulting from casein kinase 2 (CK2) overexpression and hyperactivation. In addition, T-ALL cells had constitutively high levels of ROS, which can also downmodulate PTEN activity. Accordingly, both CK2 inhibitors and ROS scavengers restored PTEN activity and impaired PI3K/Akt signaling in T-ALL cells. Strikingly, inhibition of PI3K and/or CK2 promoted T-ALL cell death without affecting normal T cell precursors. Overall, our data indicate that T-ALL cells inactivate PTEN mostly in a nondeletional, posttranslational manner. Pharmacological manipulation of these mechanisms may open new avenues for T-ALL treatment.
Ana Silva, J. Andrés Yunes, Bruno A. Cardoso, Leila R. Martins, Patrícia Y. Jotta, Miguel Abecasis, Alexandre E. Nowill, Nick R. Leslie, Angelo A. Cardoso, Joao T. Barata
The PI3K/Akt pathway is constitutively hyperactivated in primary T-ALL cells.