Autophagy prevention sensitizes AKTi-1/2-induced anti-hepatocellular carcinoma cell activity in vitro and in vivo

Molecule-targeted therapy has become the research focus for hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Persistent PI3K-AKT activation is often detected in HCC, representing a valuable oncotarget for treatment. Here, we tested the anti-HCC activity by a potent AKT inhibitor: AKT inhibitor 1/2 (AKTi-1/2). In both established (HepG2 and Huh-7) and primary human HCC cells, treatment with AKTi-1/2 inhibited cell survival and proliferation, but induced cell apoptosis. AKTi-1/2 blocked AKT-mTOR activation, yet simultaneously provoked cytoprotective autophagy in HCC cells. The latter was evidenced by ATG-5 and Beclin-1 upregulation, p62 downregulation as well as LC3B-GFP puncta formation. Autophagy inhibition, via pharmacological inhibitors (3-methyladenine, ammonium chloride, and bafilomycin A1) or Beclin-1 siRNA knockdown, significantly potentiated AKTi-1/2-induced HepG2 cell death and apoptosis. In nude mice, AKTi-1/2 intraperitoneal injection inhibited HepG2 tumor growth. Significantly, its anti-tumor activity in vivo was further sensitized when combined with Beclin-1 shRNA knockdown in HepG2 tumors. Together, these results demonstrate that autophagy activation serves as a main resistance factor of AKTi-1/2 in HCC cells. Autophagy prevention therefore sensitizes AKTi-1/2-induced anti-HCC activity in vitro and in vivo.

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S7776 Akti-1/2 Akti-1/2 is a highly selective Akt1/Akt2 inhibitor with IC50 of 58 nM/210 nM, respectively, about 36-fold selectivity for Akt1 over Akt3. (5) (2)

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