Mutations in the PIK3CA gene are common in human cancers, including colon cancer. We compared two pairs of colon cancer cells (HCT116 and DLD1) bearing only the wild-type (WT) or mutant (MUT) PIK3CA allele for their survival capacity under stress conditions in vitro as well as their metastatic properties in an in vivo orthotopic model. When subjected to growth factor deprivation stress (GFDS), the MUT PIK3CA cells displayed resistance to GFDS-induced apoptosis relative to the WT cells. Phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K) and its down-stream effector AKT were constitutively activated during stress conditions in the MUT PIK3CA cells but not in the WT cells. The MUT cells showed hypersensitivity to PI3K inhibition. Moreover, the proapoptotic protein Bax was expressed at a very high level in the WT PIK3CA cells, whereas it was almost undetectable in the MUT cells. Inhibition of Bax expression by small interfering RNA protected the WT PIK3CA cells from GFDS-induced apoptosis, suggesting an important role of Bax in GFDS-induced apoptosis. These results indicated that the MUT PI3K confers resistance to GFDS-induced apoptosis and that the MUT cells are more dependent on the PI3K pathway for survival. In vivo studies showed that the MUT PIK3CA-bearing cells were more metastatic than the WT cells in an orthotopic model of colon cancer. Taken together, these results suggest that MUT PI3K imparts a more aggressive phenotype in colon cancer cells and could be a potential therapeutic target for treatment of colon cancer patients bearing PIK3CA mutations.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cancer Research