The PTEN/PI3K pathway is commonly mutated in cancer and therefore represents an attractive target for therapeutic intervention. To investigate the primary phenotypes mediated by increased pathway signaling in a clean, patient-relevant context, an activating PIK3CA mutation (H1047R) was knocked-in to an endogenous allele of the MCF10A non-tumorigenic human breast epithelial cell line. Introduction of an endogenously mutated PIK3CA allele resulted in a marked epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) and invasive phenotype, compared to isogenic wild-type cells. The invasive phenotype was linked to enhanced PIP(3) production via a S6K-IRS positive feedback mechanism. Moreover, potent and selective inhibitors of PI3K were highly effective in reversing this phenotype, which is optimally revealed in 3-dimensional cell culture. In contrast, inhibition of Akt or mTOR exacerbated the invasive phenotype. Our results suggest that invasion is a core phenotype mediated by increased PTEN/PI3K pathway activity and that therapeutic agents targeting different nodes of the PI3K pathway may have dramatic differences in their ability to reverse or promote cancer metastasis.
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