Akt is involved in the regulation of diverse cellular functions such as cell proliferation, energy metabolism, and apoptosis. Although three Akt isoforms are known, the function of each isoform is poorly understood. To gain a better understanding of each Akt isoform, we examined the subcellular localization and expression of each isoform in transformed and nontransformed cells. Akt1 was localized in the cytoplasm, which is in agreement with the currently accepted model that cytoplasmic Akt is translocated and activated at the inner leaflet of the plasma membrane. Interestingly, HEK-293 and HEK-293T cells contained Akt1 in the nucleus and cytoplasm, respectively, suggesting that SV40 T-antigen plays a crucial role in the cytoplasmic localization and activation of Akt1 in HEK-293T. Akt2 was colocalized with the mitochondria, while Akt3 was localized in both the nucleus and nuclear membrane. The subcellular localization of the Akt isoforms was not substantially altered in response to ionizing radiation or EGF. Furthermore, the ablation of one Akt isoform by small interfering RNA (siRNA) did not alter the subcellular location of the remaining isoforms, suggesting that the major function of one isoform is not compensated for by other isoforms. Together, our data support the notion that Akt2 and Akt3 are regulated at the mitochondrial and nuclear membranes, respectively. The mitochondrial localization of Akt2 raises the possibility that this isoform may be involved in both glucose-based energy metabolism and suppression of apoptosis, two Akt functions previously identified with anti-pan-Akt antibodies.
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