MEK1/2 is a bottleneck that induces cancer stem cells to activate the PI3K/AKT pathway

Ghmkin Hassan, Said M. Afify, Juan Du, Hend M. Nawara, Mona Sheta, Sadia Monzur, Maram H. Zahra, Hagar A. Abu Quora, Hager Mansour, Samah El-Ghlban, Ryo Uesaki, Akimasa Seno, Masaharu Seno

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Cancer stem cells (CSCs) are responsible for cancer initiation, drug resistance, and aggressive tumor phenotypes. Our lab has established a novel method to induce CSCs from induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells in a microenvironment mimicking chronic inflammation. The converted cells acquired CSC characteristics and developed malignant tumors. Recently, we demonstrated that nonmutagenic chemical inhibitors accelerated the conversion of mouse iPS (miPS) cells into CSCs. Here, we investigated the effects of AZD-6244, a MEK1/2-specific inhibitor, on the conversion of iPS cells into CSCs. The miPS cells were cultured for one week in the presence of the conditioned medium (CM) of Lewis lung carcinoma (LLC) cells and AZD-6244, PD0325901, a pan-MEK inhibitor, or GDC-0879, a B-Raf inhibitor. As a result, AZD-6244 enhanced the conversion of iPS cells into CSCs and upregulated AKT phosphorylation as same as GDC-0879 and PD0325901. The converted cells maintained their self-renewal ability and stemness gene expression. The expression of the CSC markers CD24, CD44 and CD133 was higher in the cells cultured with MAPK inhibitors than in those cultured without MAPK inhibitors. Moreover, converted cells gained migration and invasion abilities assessed by in vitro assays. Therefore, the inhibition of MEK1/2 was found to be critical for the conversion of normal stem cells into CSCs in the tumor-inducing microenvironment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)49-55
Number of pages7
JournalBiochemical and Biophysical Research Communications
Publication statusPublished - Dec 17 2021


  • Cancer stem cells
  • MEK/ERK pathway
  • PI3K/AKT pathway
  • Tumor-inducing microenvironment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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