Protein kinase B: emerging mechanisms of isoform-specific regulation of cellular signaling in cancer

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The serine/threonine protein kinase B (PKB), also known as Akt, is one of the multifaceted kinases in the human kinome, existing in three isoforms. PKB plays a vital role in phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K)-mediated oncogenesis in various malignancies and is one of the attractive targets for cancer drug discovery. Recent studies have shown that the functional significance of an individual isoform of PKB is not redundant in cancer. It has been found that PKB isoforms play distinct roles in the regulation of cellular invasion and migration during tumorigenesis. PKB activation plays a central role during epithelial–mesenchymal transition, a cellular program required for the cancer cell invasion and migration. However, the differential behavior of each PKB isoform has been shown in the regulation of epithelial–mesenchymal transition. Recent studies have suggested that PKBα (Akt1) plays a conflicting role in tumorigenesis by acting either as a pro-oncogenic factor by suppressing the apoptotic machinery or by restricting tumor invasion. PKBβ (Akt2) promotes cell migration and invasion and similarly PKBγ (Akt3) has been reported to promote tumor migration. As PKB is known for its pro-oncogenic properties, it needs to be unraveled how three isoforms of PKB compensate during tumor progression. In this review, we attempted to sum up how different isoforms of PKB play a role in cancer progression, metastasis, and drug resistance.

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