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© 2017. Published by The Company of Biologists Ltd. The phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K)/protein kinase B (PKB/Akt) pathway plays an important role in regulating cell proliferation, metabolism, and survival. However, the distinct roles of Akt isoforms (Akt1, Akt2, and Akt3) in pluripotent stem cell maintenance are not fully defined. Using mouse embryonic stem cells (ESCs), we show that direct inhibition of Akt activity leads to ESC apoptosis. The Akt3, but not Akt1 or Akt2, activity specifically regulates this effect. Inhibiting Akt3 also leads to a cell cycle arrest at G1 phase. These regulatory roles of Akt3 are dependent on its kinase activity. Blocking the expression of Akt1 plus Akt2 in ESCs does not affect cell survival or proliferation, although blocking Akt1 aggravates the apoptotic effect induced by depletion of Akt3.We further show that blocking Akt3 in ESCs results in significant nuclear accumulation of p53, as well as the activation of its downstream targets, such as Mdm2, p21, and Fas. Inhibiting p53 and its downstream targets partially rescued the effects caused by Akt3-depletion. Our results revealed an Akt3 isoform-specific mechanism for ESC survival and proliferation involving the control of p53 activity.

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Biology Open

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