Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Deciphering downstream gene targets of PI3K/mTOR/p70S6K pathway in breast cancer

Henna Heinonen1, Anni Nieminen2, Matti Saarela3, Anne Kallioniemi4, Juha Klefström2, Sampsa Hautaniemi5 and Outi Monni1*

Author Affiliations

1 Institute of Biomedicine and Biomedicum Biochip Center, Genome-Scale Biology Research Program, University of Helsinki, Finland

2 Cancer Cell Circuitry Laboratory, Institute of Biomedicine, Genome-Scale Biology Research Program, University of Helsinki, Finland

3 Institute of Software Systems, Tampere University of Technology, Finland

4 Laboratory of Cancer Genetics, Institute of Medical Technology, University of Tampere and Tampere University Hospital, Finland

5 Computational Systems Biology Laboratory, Institute of Biomedicine, Genome-Scale Biology Research Program, University of Helsinki, Finland

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BMC Genomics 2008, 9:348  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-9-348

Published: 24 July 2008



The 70 kDa ribosomal protein S6 kinase (RPS6KB1), located at 17q23, is amplified and overexpressed in 10–30% of primary breast cancers and breast cancer cell lines. p70S6K is a serine/threonine kinase regulated by PI3K/mTOR pathway, which plays a crucial role in control of cell cycle, growth and survival. Our aim was to determine p70S6K and PI3K/mTOR/p70S6K pathway dependent gene expression profiles by microarrays using five breast cancer cell lines with predefined gene copy number and gene expression alterations. The p70S6K dependent profiles were determined by siRNA silencing of RPS6KB1 in two breast cancer cell lines overexpressing p70S6K. These profiles were further correlated with gene expression alterations caused by inhibition of PI3K/mTOR pathway with PI3K inhibitor Ly294002 or mTOR inhibitor rapamycin.


Altogether, the silencing of p70S6K altered the expression of 109 and 173 genes in two breast cancer cell lines and 67 genes were altered in both cell lines in addition to RPS6KB1. Furthermore, 17 genes including VTCN1 and CDKN2B showed overlap with genes differentially expressed after PI3K or mTOR inhibition. The gene expression signatures responsive to both PI3K/mTOR pathway and p70S6K inhibitions revealed previously unidentified genes suggesting novel downstream targets for PI3K/mTOR/p70S6K pathway.


Since p70S6K overexpression is associated with aggressive disease and poor prognosis of breast cancer patients, the potential downstream targets of p70S6K and the whole PI3K/mTOR/p70S6K pathway identified in our study may have diagnostic value.