AKT signaling restrains tumor suppressive functions of FOXO transcription factors and GSK3 kinase in multiple myeloma

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The phosphatidylinositide-3 kinases and the downstream mediator AKT drive survival and proliferation of multiple myeloma (MM) cells. AKT signaling is active in MM and has pleiotropic effects; however, the key molecular aspects of AKT dependency in MM are not fully clear. Among the various downstream AKT targets are the Forkhead box O (FOXO) transcription factors (TFs) and glycogen synthase kinase 3 (GSK3), which are negatively regulated by AKT signaling. Here we show that abrogation of AKT signaling in MM cells provokes cell death and cell cycle arrest, which crucially depends on both FOXO TFs and GSK3. Based on gene expression profiling, we defined a FOXO-repressed gene set that has prognostic significance in a large cohort of patients with MM, indicating that AKT-mediated gene activation is associated with inferior overall survival. We further show that AKT signaling stabilizes the antiapoptotic myeloid cell leukemia 1 (MCL1) protein by inhibiting FOXO- and GSK3-mediated MCL1 turnover. In concordance, abrogation of AKT signaling greatly sensitized MM cells for an MCL1-targeting BH3-mimetic, which is currently in clinical development. Taken together, our results indicate that AKT activity is required to restrain the tumor-suppressive functions of FOXO and GSK3, thereby stabilizing the antiapoptotic protein MCL1 in MM. These novel insights into the role of AKT in MM pathogenesis and MCL1 regulation provide opportunities to improve targeted therapy for patients with MM.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4151-4164
Issue number17
Publication statusPublished - 8 Sep 2020

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