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Open Access Research article

Activation of Akt1 accelerates carcinogen-induced tumorigenesis in mammary gland of virgin and post-lactating transgenic mice

Yanyuan Wu12, Juri Kim1, Yayha Elshimali12, Marianna Sarkissyan1 and Jaydutt V Vadgama12*

Author Affiliations

1 Division of Cancer Research and Training, Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science, 1731 East 120th Street, Los Angeles, CA 90059, USA

2 Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center and David Geffen UCLA School of Medicine, Los Angeles, CA, USA

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BMC Cancer 2014, 14:266  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-14-266

Published: 17 April 2014

Abstract

Background

Data from in vivo and in vitro studies suggest that activation of Akt regulates cell survival signaling and plays a key role in tumorigenesis. Hence, transgenic mice were created to explore the oncogenic role of Akt1 in the development of mammary tumors.

Methods

The transgenic mice were generated by expressing myristoylated-Akt1 (myr-Akt1) under the control of the MMTV-LTR promoter. The carcinogen 7, 12 dimethyl-1,2-benzanthracene (DMBA) was used to induce tumor formation.

Results

The MMTV driven myr-Akt1 transgene expression was detected primarily in the mammary glands, uterus, and ovaries. The expression level increased significantly in lactating mice, suggesting that the response was hormone dependent. The total Akt expression level in the mammary gland was also higher in the lactating mice. Interestingly, the expression of MMTVmyr-Akt1 in the ovaries of the transgenic mice caused significant increase in circulating estrogen levels, even at the post-lactation stage. Expression of myr-Akt1 in mammary glands alone did not increase the frequency of tumor formation. However, there was an increased susceptibility of forming mammary tumors induced by DMBA in the transgenic mice, especially in mice post-lactation. Within 34 weeks, DMBA induced mammary tumors in 42.9% of transgenic mice post-lactation, but not in wild-type mice post-lactation. The myr-Akt1 mammary tumors induced by DMBA had increased phosphorylated-Akt1 and showed strong expression of estrogen receptor (ERĪ±) and epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR). In addition, Cyclin D1 was more frequently up-regulated in mammary tumors from transgenic mice compared to tumors from wild-type mice. Overexpression of Cyclin D1, however, was not completely dependent on activated Akt1. Interestingly, mammary tumors that had metastasized to secondary sites had increased expression of Twist and Slug, but low expression of Cyclin D1.

Conclusions

In summary, the MMTVmyr-Akt1 transgenic mouse model could be useful to study mechanisms of ER-positive breast tumor development.

Keywords:
Myr-Akt1; Tumorigenesis; Mammary gland; Estrogen; Lactation; Breast cancer