Targeted PI3K/AKT-hyperactivation induces cell death in chronic lymphocytic leukemia

Ecker, V., Stumpf, M., Brandmeier, L., Neumayer, T., Pfeuffer, L., Engleitner, T., Ringshausen, I., Nelson, N., Jucker, M., Wanninger, S., Zenz, T., Wendtner, C., Manske, K., Steiger, K., Rad, R., Muschen, M., Ruland, J., Buchner, M. (2021). Nat Commun 12, 3526.

DOI:10.1038/s41467-021-23752-2(link is external)


Current therapeutic approaches for chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) focus on the suppression of oncogenic kinase signaling. Here, we test the hypothesis that targeted hyperactivation of the phosphatidylinositol-3-phosphate/AKT (PI3K/AKT)-signaling pathway may be leveraged to trigger CLL cell death. Though counterintuitive, our data show that genetic hyperactivation of PI3K/AKT-signaling or blocking the activity of the inhibitory phosphatase SH2-containing-inositol-5′-phosphatase-1 (SHIP1) induces acute cell death in CLL cells. Our mechanistic studies reveal that increased AKT activity upon inhibition of SHIP1 leads to increased mitochondrial respiration and causes excessive accumulation of reactive oxygen species (ROS), resulting in cell death in CLL with immunogenic features. Our results demonstrate that CLL cells critically depend on mechanisms to fine-tune PI3K/AKT activity, allowing sustained proliferation and survival but avoid ROS-induced cell death and suggest transient SHIP1-inhibition as an unexpectedly promising concept for CLL therapy.