RBL2/p130 is a direct AKT target and is required to induce apoptosis upon AKT inhibition in lung cancer and mesothelioma cell lines

Francesca Pentimalli, Iris M. Forte, Luca Esposito, Paola Indovina, Carmelina A. Iannuzzi, Luigi Alfano, Caterina Costa, Daniela Barone, Gaetano Rocco, Antonio Giordano

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The retinoblastoma (RB) protein family includes RB1/p105, RBL1/p107, and RBL2/p130, which are key factors in cell-cycle regulation and stand at the crossroads of multiple pathways dictating cell fate decisions. The role of RB proteins in apoptosis is controversial because they can inhibit or promote apoptosis depending on the context, on the apoptotic stimuli and on their intrinsic status, impacting on the response to antitumoral treatments. Here we identified RBL2/p130 as a direct substrate of the AKT kinase, a key antiapoptotic factor hyperactive in multiple cancer types. We showed that RBL2/p130 and AKT1 physically interact and AKT phosphorylates RBL2/p130 Ser941, located in the pocket domain, but not when this residue is mutated into Ala. We found that pharmacological inhibition of AKT, through the highly selective AKT inhibitor VIII (AKTiVIII), impairs RBL2/p130 Ser941 phosphorylation and increases RBL2/p130 stability, mRNA expression and nuclear levels in both lung cancer and mesothelioma cell lines, mirroring the more extensively studied effects on the p27 cell-cycle inhibitor. Consistently, AKT inhibition reduced cell viability, induced cell accumulation in G0/G1, and triggered apoptosis, which proved to be largely dependent on RBL2/p130 itself, as shown upon RBL2/p130 silencing. AKT inhibition induced RBL2/p130-dependent apoptosis also in HEK-293 cells, in which re-expression of a short hairpin-resistant RBL2/p130 was able to rescue AKTiVIII-induced apoptosis upon RBL2/p130 silencing. Our data also showed that the combination of AKT and cyclin-dependent kinases (CDK) inhibitors, which converge on the re-activation of RBL2/p130 antitumoral potential, could be a promising anticancer strategy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
Publication statusPublished - 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Cancer Research


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