PTEN deficiency leads to proteasome addiction: A novel vulnerability in glioblastoma

Jorge A. Benitez, Darren Finlay, Anthony Castanza, Alison D. Parisian, Jianhui Ma, Ciro Longobardi, Alex Campos, Raghavendra Vadla, Alejandro Izurieta, Gianluca Scerra, Tomoyuki Koga, Tao Long, Lukas Chavez, Jill P. Mesirov, Kristiina Vuori, Frank Furnari

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Background: Glioblastoma (GBM) is the most common primary brain tumor in adults with a median survival of approximately 15 months; therefore, more effective treatment options for GBM are required. To identify new drugs targeting GBMs, we performed a high-throughput drug screen using patient-derived neurospheres cultured to preferentially retain their glioblastoma stem cell (GSC) phenotype. Methods: High-throughput drug screening was performed on GSCs followed by a dose-response assay of the 5 identified original "hits."A PI3K/mTOR dependency to a proteasome inhibitor (carfilzomib), was confirmed by genetic and pharmacologic experiments. Proteasome Inhibition Response Signatures were derived from proteomic and bioinformatic analysis. Molecular mechanism of action was determined using three-dimensional (3D) GBM-organoids and preclinical orthotopic models. Results: We found that GSCs were highly sensitive to proteasome inhibition due to an underlying dependency on an increased protein synthesis rate, and loss of autophagy, associated with PTEN loss and activation of the PI3K/mTOR pathway. In contrast, combinatory inhibition of autophagy and the proteasome resulted in enhanced cytotoxicity specifically in GSCs that did express PTEN. Finally, proteasome inhibition specifically increased cell death markers in 3D GBM-organoids, suppressed tumor growth, and increased survival of mice orthotopically engrafted with GSCs. As perturbations of the PI3K/mTOR pathway occur in nearly 50% of GBMs, these findings suggest that a significant fraction of these tumors could be vulnerable to proteasome inhibition. Conclusions: Proteasome inhibition is a potential synthetic lethal therapeutic strategy for GBM with proteasome addiction due to a high protein synthesis rate and autophagy deficiency.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1072-1086
Number of pages15
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Author(s) 2021. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society for Neuro-Oncology. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail:


  • PTEN
  • glioblastoma
  • neurospheres
  • organoids
  • proteasome

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't


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