MK2206 enhances the cytocidal effects of bufalin in multiple myeloma by inhibiting the AKT/mTOR pathway

Despite the development of promising cancer therapeutic drugs, multiple myeloma (MM) remains an incurable disease. Bufalin is a bufanolide steroid compound of the traditional Chinese medicine Chan Su that was previously shown to exert growth suppression effects on myeloma cell lines. Previous studies conducted by our group demonstrated that bufalin activated the AKT/mTOR pathway in myeloma cells, which is considered an essential pathway to disease progression and is related to drug resistance in MM. In view of the significant role of AKT in MM, the allosteric AKT inhibitor MK2206 was selected in order to enhance the antitumor effects of bufalin in different MM cell lines (NCI-H929, U266, LP-1 and RPMI8226). The data indicated that MK2206 enhanced the cytotoxicity of bufalin in MM cells, via the suppression of cellular proliferation and the induction of apoptosis, as demonstrated by cleavage of apoptosis-related proteins. This effect was further noted in the presence of exogenous interleukin-6 and/or following the co-culture of MM cells with bone marrow stromal cells (BMSC). This process was associated with the inhibition of the AKT/mTOR pathway. The combination of bufalin with MK2206 reduced the secretion of IL-6 in U266 cells. The combined treatment exhibited similar anti-MM effects in bortezomib-resistant cell lines (NCI-H929R, U266R). In addition to the in vitro cell line models, the synergistic effect was noted in primary MM cells and in MM xenografts of BALB-c and NOD-SCID mice. In conclusion, the data suggested that MK2206 significantly enhanced the cytocidal effects of bufalin in MM cells, regardless of the sensitivity to bortezomib, via the inhibition of the AKT/mTOR pathway. The study provided the basis of a promising treatment approach for MM.

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