Statins inhibit Akt/PKB signaling via P2X7 receptor in pancreatic cancer cells

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Graphical abstractSummary of statin-induced effects in pancreatic cancer cell lines.Cholesterol-lowering statins have been shown to inhibit growth of pancreatic cancer cells in vitro and in vivo. Epidemiological studies also indicate a chemopreventive effect of statins. We have investigated the effect of statins on Akt/protein kinase B signaling. We found that atorvastatin decreased constitutive- and insulin-induced pAkt in Panc-1 and MIA PaCa-2 cells. Statins also inhibited pAkt in combination with gemcitabine- and 5-fluorouracil, and sensitized cells to gemcitabine- and 5-fluorouracil-induced apoptosis and inhibition of cell proliferation. In line with our previous data, it was found that the P2X7-purinergic receptor mediated the effects of statins in Panc-1 and MIA PaCa-2 cells. Thus, experiments employing P2X7 siRNA and inhibitors supported an involvement of P2X7. In Capan-2 cells, which expressed P2X7 in low levels, statins did not reduce pAkt levels nor did statins sensitize them to cytostatic drugs. However, statin inhibited the growth of Capan-2 cells and this correlated to inhibition of NFκB and Raf/MEK pathways. As shown previously, these latter effects can be explained by an inhibited protein prenylation. Our data suggest that statins primarily target a functional P2X7-Akt signaling in pancreatic cancer cells. By targeting the P2X7-Akt axis, statins can sensitize pancreatic cancer cells to chemotherapeutic drugs. Our data are also in line with a role for P2X7 in the chemopreventive effect of statins on pancreatic cancer.

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