The functional role of the tumor suppressor MMAC/PTEN in glioblastoma multiforme and prostate cancer

Michael Arwyn Davies, The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Houston


Investigations into the molecular basis of glioblastoma multiforme led to the identification of a putative tumor suppressor gene, MMAC/ PTEN. Initial studies implicated MMAC/PTEN in many different tumor types, and identified a protein phosphatase motif in its sequence. This project aimed to identify the biological and biochemical functions of MMAC/PTEN by transiently expressing the gene in cancer cells that lack a functional gene product. Expression of MMAC/PTEN mildly suppressed the growth of U251 human glioma cells and abrogated the growth advantage mediated by overexpression of the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR). Immunoblotting demonstrated that MMAC/PTEN expression did not affect the phosphorylation of the EGFR itself, or the intermediates of several downstream signaling pathways. However, MMAC/PTEN expression significantly reduced the phosphorylation and catalytic activity of the proto-oncogene Akt/PKB. While Akt/PKB regulates the survival of many cell types, expression of MMAC/PTEN did not induce apoptosis in adherent U251 cells. Instead, MMAC/PTEN expression sensitized the cells to apoptosis when maintained in suspension (anoikis). As the survival of suspended cells is one of the hallmarks leading to metastasis, MMAC/PTEN expression was examined in a system in which metastasis is more clinically relevant, prostate cancer. Expression of MMAC/PTEN in both LNCaP and PC3-P human prostate cancer cells specifically inhibited Akt/PKB phosphorylation. MMAC/PTEN expression in LNCaP cells resulted in a profound inhibition of growth that was significantly greater than that achieved with expression of p53. Expression of MMAC/PTEN in PC3-P cells resulted in greater growth inhibition than was observed in U251 glioma cells, but less than was observed in LNCaP cells, or upon p53 expression. To determine if MMAC/PTEN could function as a tumor suppressor in vivo, the effects of MMAC/PTEN expression on PC3-P cells implanted orthotopically in nude mice were examined. The ex-vivo expression of MMAC/PTEN did not decrease tumor incidence, but it did significantly decrease tumor size and metastasis. In-vivo expression of MMAC/PTEN in pre-established PC3-P tumors did not significantly inhibit tumor incidence or size, but did inhibit metastasis formation. These studies demonstrate that MMAC/PTEN is a novel and important tumor suppressor gene, which functions to downregulate an important cell survival signaling pathway.

Subject Area

Molecular biology|Oncology|Cellular biology

Recommended Citation

Davies, Michael Arwyn, "The functional role of the tumor suppressor MMAC/PTEN in glioblastoma multiforme and prostate cancer" (2001). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI3004451.