To achieve potent inhibition of the PI3K-Akt pathway in glioblastoma, we need to understand its mechanism of activation by investigating the interplay between its regulators.
We show here that PTEN modulates the PI3K-Akt pathway in glioblastoma within a tumor suppressor network that includes Na(+)/H(+) exchanger regulatory factor 1 (NHERF1) and pleckstrin-homology domain leucine-rich repeat protein phosphatases 1 (PHLPP1). The NHERF1 adaptor, previously characterized by our group as a PTEN ligand and regulator, shows also PTEN-independent Akt-modulating effects that led us to identify the PHLPP1/PHLPP2 Akt phosphatases as NHERF1 ligands. NHERF1 interacts via its PDZ domains with PHLPP1/PHLPP2 and scaffolds heterotrimeric complexes with PTEN. Functionally, PHLPP1 requires NHERF1 for membrane localization and growth-suppressive effects. PHLPP1 loss boosts Akt phosphorylation only in PTEN-negative cells and cooperates with PTEN loss for tumor growth.
In a panel of low-grade and high-grade glioma patient samples, we show for the first time a significant disruption of all three members of the PTEN-NHERF1-PHLPP1 tumor suppressor network in high-grade tumors, correlating with Akt activation and patient's abysmal survival.
We thus propose a PTEN-NHERF1-PHLPP PI3K-Akt pathway inhibitory network that relies on molecular interactions and can undergo parallel synergistic hits in glioblastoma.