Background and aims: Determination of intracellular signalling pathways that mediate intestinal epithelial proliferation is fundamental to the understanding of the integrity and function of the intestinal tract under normal and diseased conditions. The phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K)/Akt pathway transduces signals initiated by growth factors and is involved in cell proliferation and differentiation. In this study, we assessed the role of PI3K/Akt in transduction of proliferative signals in intestinal epithelial cells. Methods: A rat intestinal epithelial (RIE) cell line and human colorectal cancer HCA-7 and LS-174 cell lines served as in vitro models. The Balb/cJ mouse was the in vivo model. Results: PI3K activation was critical for G1 cell cycle progression of intestinal epithelial cells. Ectopic expression of either active p110α or Akt-1 increased RIE cell proliferation. In vivo experiments demonstrated that PI3K activation was closely associated with the proliferative activity of intestinal mucosa. Treatment of mice with PI3K inhibitors blocked induction of PI3K activity and attenuated intestinal mucosal proliferation associated with oral intake. Epidermal growth factor and transforming growth factor α stimulated PI3K activation which was required for growth factor induced expression of cyclin D1. Conclusions: The PI3K/Akt pathway transduces mitogenic signals from growth factor receptors to the cell cycle machinery and plays a critical role in regulation of intestinal epithelial proliferation.
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