The level of AKT phosphorylation on threonine 308 but not on serine 473 is associated with high-risk cytogenetics and predicts poor overall survival in acute myeloid leukaemia

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The phosphoinositide 3-kinase/Akt pathway is an important signalling pathway governing cell survival and proliferation in acute myeloid leukaemia (AML). As full activation of Akt requires phosphorylation on both threonine 308 (Thr308) and serine 473 (Ser473) residues, we studied the level of phosphorylation on the both sites in 58 AML samples by flow cytometry. The ratio of the mean fluorescence intensity of Thr308 and Ser473 represented a continuum ranging from 0.3 to 5.6 and from 0.4 to 2.87, respectively. There were no significant correlations between age, gender, French-American-British classification, leukocytosis, FLT3-ITD and Akt phosphorylation. However, the level of phosphorylation on Thr308, but not on Ser473, was significantly correlated with high-risk karyotype. Thr308high patients had significantly shorter overall survival (11 vs 47 months;P=0.01), event-free survival (9 vs 26 months;P=0.005) and relapse-free survival (10 months vs not reached;P=0.02) than Thr308low patients. Neither screening for AKT1 E17K mutation nor changes in the level of PTEN expression and phosphorylation could be linked to increased phosphorylation on Thr308 in high-risk cytogenetic AML cells. However, PP2A activity was significantly reduced in high-risk samples compared with intermediate-risk samples. Moreover, the specific Akt inhibitor, Akti-1/2, inhibited cell proliferation and clonogenic properties, and induced apoptosis in AML cells with high-risk cytogenetics, suggesting that Akt may represent a therapeutic target in high-risk AML.

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