Saturday, July 12, 2008

What does AKT mean?

In a previous entry about CD30 I mentioned the enzyme Akt without defining what it meant. To tell the truth I didn’t know and I have spent some time searching for it. Finding out what these abbreviations stand for is quite a task, since everybody assumes that everybody knows, and nobody dares ask for fear of feeling foolish.

Most of these enzymes with a ‘k’ in then are kinases, so that seems to be a start, especially since it appears that Akt is the same as Protein kinase B (or PKB). But actually that seems to be a dead end. I got back as far as 1993 when it was still known as Akt/PKB but no indication as to what it stood for. I thought perhaps it might be A Kinase for Tyrosine, but Tyrosine is usually represented by a ‘Y’ in biochemistry-speak.

Then I thought about the AKR mouse, a white mouse much used in laboratories because of the ease with which it develops leukemia. Looking up the mouse gave me the answer.

The site I found is well worth preserving because the author clearly has a fascination for sorting out these enzyme names. Here is an abridgement of what he says:

The K was not a kinase, but arrived in 1928 from a strain of mouse, the mouse A came from a Pennsylvania pet shop, and the T arrived 50 years later from the Thymus.

AKT was isolated from the AKR/J mouse, the Jackson Laboratory strain bred for a high degree of leukemia by Jacob Furth at the Cornell Medical School. The Jackson Laboratory says, “AKR Albino. Origin: a dealer named Detwiler in Norristown, PA. Carried by Firth as a high leukemia strain from 1928-36, then random bred at Rockefeller Inst. For several generations b x s by Mrs Rhoades to F9 then C. Lynch to F21.

Furth’s own account goes like this: …began interbreeding three stocks of mice; two obtained from a commercial breeder were ‘A’ and ‘S’. ‘A’ mice were purchased from a dealer in Pennsylvania who was the supplier to the long defunct cancer research laboratory (supported by the DuPont family) where I learned that leukemia did occur in the ‘A’ stock, albeit infrequently. … ‘A’ eventually yielded the AKR strain.

He goes on to point out that it was really an Akr mouse because the ‘k’ and the ‘r’ were sublines. So we can imagine that ‘k’ is just the twelfth subline that he produced and ‘r’ the nineteenth. The T seems to have arrived in 1977 when AKT was isolated from a thymoma cell line AKT-8 from a spontaneously lymphomatous AKR/J mouse.

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