Understanding the biochemical alterations in cancer cells chronically treated with PI3K/mTOR inhibitors
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The PI3K/mTOR signalling pathway plays a major role in biology and disease. Therefore, effective inhibitors that target proteins of this pathway have been developed. However, acquired resistance of cancer cells is a prevalent phenomenon that limits the durable response of these compounds. It is becoming apparent that experimental approaches for comprehensive biochemical analysis contribute to understand the complex mechanisms that confer drug resistance, and advances in largescale technologies including genomic sequencing and proteomics allow unprecedented molecular coverage without being biased for specific genes/cellular pathways. Initially, the phenotypic response of sensitive and resistant cells to the absence or presence of a PI3K inhibitor (PI3Ki), as well as other kinases, was examined. This study revealed that PI3Ki-resistant cells experience extensive phenotypic changes upon withdrawal of the PI3Ki from the culture media. The regulation of the proteome and phosphoproteome of sensitive and PI3Ki-resistant cells grown with or without the PI3Ki was analysed by shotgun mass spectrometry-based label-free quantitative technology. This analysis demonstrated that the proteomes and phosphoproteomes of drug-resistant cells are remodelled conditional to the presence of PI3Ki, and that the levels of enzymes with metabolic roles are modulated in resistant cells. Functional analysis of the metabolism of cells capable to survive in absence of PI3K/mTOR activity demonstrated that the bioenergetic activity of these cells is contingent on the presence of the selection drug. The complete set of protein-coding regions of the genome (exome) of sensitive and PI3Ki-resistant cells was then sequenced. This study unveiled common alterations in exome regions across PI3Kiresistant cell lines, as well as a degree of genomic heterogeneity between them. Lastly, the impact of lactic acid, a metabolic product, on a defined signalling network of the MCF7 breast cancer cell line was analysed. This study described the capacity of this metabolite to change the activity of signalling network branches.
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