PYK2 mediates anti-apoptotic AKT signaling in response to benzo[a]pyrene diol epoxide in mammary epithelial cells. Academic Article uri icon


  • Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, such as benzo[a]pyrene (BaP), are known mammary carcinogens in rodents and may be involved in human breast cancer. The carcinogenicity of BaP has been partially attributed to the formation of the BaP diol epoxide (BPDE), which has been shown to stably bind DNA and act as an initiator. BaP is a complete carcinogen, but the mechanisms for tumor promotion are less well characterized. Previous studies have demonstrated that BPDE enhanced anti-apoptotic signaling through Akt; however, mechanisms for Akt activation by BPDE are not well defined. In the current studies, we found that BPDE increased intracellular Ca2+ concentration in the human mammary epithelial cell line MCF-10A. A peak in Ca2+ concentration at 20 min was followed by increased phosphorylation of Pyk2 at Tyr881 and increased total tyrosine phosphorylation of the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR). Consistent with activation of the EGFR, Akt and ERK1/2 phosphorylation was detected in MCF-10A cells treated with BPDE. Pharmacological methods to prevent Ca2+ elevation and EGFR activity, and small-interfering RNA against Pyk2, prevented Akt phosphorylation by BPDE, which suggested that Ca2+, Pyk2 and EGFR activation lay upstream of Akt. In addition, we found that BPDE increased p53 activity and apoptosis in MCF-10A; however, transient transfection of constitutively active Akt attenuated both BPDE-dependent apoptosis and p53 activity. In contrast, apoptosis was enhanced by inhibitors of phosphatidyl inositol 3-kinase (PI3-K). This work demonstrates a novel mechanism for Akt activation by BPDE that occurs through increased Ca2+ concentration, and implicates Ca2+, Pyk2, EGFR and Akt as a potential pathway by which BPDE can inhibit apoptosis and act as a promoter of carcinogenesis.

publication date

  • January 1, 2006