Crosstalks of GSK3 signaling with the mTOR network and effects on targeted therapy of cancer

Camilla Evangelisti, Francesca Chiarini, Francesca Paganelli, Sandra Marmiroli, Alberto M Martelli

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The introduction of therapeutics targeting specific tumor-promoting oncogenic or non-oncogenic signaling pathways has revolutionized cancer treatment. Mechanistic (previously mammalian) target of rapamycin (mTOR), a highly conserved Ser/Thr kinase, is a central hub of the phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K)/Akt/mTOR network, one of the most frequently deregulated signaling pathways in cancer, that makes it an attractive target for therapy. Numerous mTOR inhibitors have progressed to clinical trials and two of them have been officially approved as anticancer therapeutics. However, mTOR-targeting drugs have met with a very limited success in cancer patients. Frequently, the primary impediment to a successful targeted therapy in cancer is drug-resistance, either from the very beginning of the therapy (innate resistance) or after an initial response and upon repeated drug treatment (evasive or acquired resistance). Drug-resistance leads to treatment failure and relapse/progression of the disease. Resistance to mTOR inhibitors depends, among other reasons, on activation/deactivation of several signaling pathways, included those regulated by glycogen synthase kinase-3 (GSK3), a protein that targets a vast number of substrates in its repertoire, thereby orchestrating many processes that include cell proliferation and survival, metabolism, differentiation, and stemness. A detailed knowledge of the rewiring of signaling pathways triggered by exposure to mTOR inhibitors is critical to our understanding of the consequences such perturbations cause in tumors, including the emergence of drug-resistant cells. Here, we provide the reader with an updated overview of intricate circuitries that connect mTOR and GSK3 and we relate them to the efficacy (or lack of efficacy) of mTOR inhibitors in cancer cells.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalBiochimica et Biophysica Acta - Molecular Cell Research
Issue number4
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - Dec 26 2019


  • Cell signaling pathways
  • Drug-resistance
  • Metabolism
  • Mutations
  • Target therapies


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