Background: A number of constitutively activated signaling pathways play critical roles in the survival and growth of primary effusion lymphoma cells (PELs) including NFkB and PI3/AKT kinase cascades. NFkBis constitutively activated in a number of malignancies, including multiple myeloma, Burkitt's lymphoma and diffuse large cell B-cell lymphoma. However, its role in primary effusion lymphoma has not been fully explored. Methodology/Principal Findings: We used pharmacological inhibition and gene silencing to define the role of NFkB in growth and survival of PEL cells. Inhibition of NFkB activity by Bay11-7085 resulted in decreased expression of p65 in the nuclear compartment as detected by EMSA assays. In addition, Bay11-7085 treatment caused de-phosphorylation of AKT and its downstream targets suggesting a cross-talk between NFkB and the PI3-kinase/AKT pathway. Importantly, treatment of PEL cells with Bay11-7085 led to inhibition of cell viability and induced apoptosis in a dose dependent manner. Similar apoptotic effects were found when p65 was knocked down using specific small interference RNA. Finally, co-treatment of PEL cells with suboptimal doses of Bay11-7085 and LY294002 led to synergistic apoptotic responses in PEL cells. Conclusion/Significance: These data support a strong biological-link between NFkB and the PI3-kinase/AKT pathway in the modulation of anti-apoptotic effects in PEL cells. Synergistic targeting of these pathways using NFKB- and PI3-kinase/AKT- inhibitors may have a therapeutic potential for the treatment of PEL and possibly other malignancies with constitutive activation of these pathways.
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