Life Sciences Research for Lifelong Health

Len Stephens

Research Summary

The programmes of work in the laboratory are currently aimed at understanding the molecular mechanisms and physiological significance of intracellular signalling networks which involve a family of enzymes called phosphoinositide 3OH-kinases (PI3Ks).

PI3Ks are now accepted to be critical regulators of numerous important and complex cell responses, including cell growth, division, survival and movement.

PI3Ks catalyse the formation of one or more critical phospholipid messenger molecules, which signal information by binding to specific domains in target proteins. Currently the best understood pathway involves the activation of Class I PI3Ks by cell surface receptors.

In recent years, the laboratory has increasingly focused on the role of PI3Ks in the signalling mechanisms which allow receptors on neutrophils (white blood cells) to control various aspects of neutrophil function.

Neutrophils are key players in the front line of our immune system, responsible primarily for the recognition and destruction of bacterial and fungal pathogens. However, they are also involved in the amplification cascades that underlie various inflammatory pathologies, e.g. Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS) and rheumatoid arthritis.

Latest Publications

Class (I) Phosphoinositide 3-Kinases in the Tumor Microenvironment.
Gyori D, Chessa T, Hawkins PT, Stephens LR

Phosphoinositide 3-kinases (PI3Ks) are a diverse family of enzymes which regulate various critical biological processes, such as cell proliferation and survival. Class (I) PI3Ks (PI3Kα, PI3Kβ, PI3Kγ and PI3Kδ) mediate the phosphorylation of the inositol ring at position D3 leading to the generation of PtdIns(3,4,5)P3. PtdIns(3,4,5)P3 can be dephosphorylated by several phosphatases, of which the best known is the 3-phosphatase PTEN (phosphatase and tensin homolog). The Class (I) PI3K pathway is frequently disrupted in human cancers where mutations are associated with increased PI3K-activity or loss of PTEN functionality within the tumor cells. However, the role of PI3Ks in the tumor stroma is less well understood. Recent evidence suggests that the white blood cell-selective PI3Kγ and PI3Kδ isoforms have an important role in regulating the immune-suppressive, tumor-associated myeloid cell and regulatory T cell subsets, respectively, and as a consequence are also critical for solid tumor growth. Moreover, PI3Kα is implicated in the direct regulation of tumor angiogenesis, and dysregulation of the PI3K pathway in stromal fibroblasts can also contribute to cancer progression. Therefore, pharmacological inhibition of the Class (I) PI3K family in the tumor microenvironment can be a highly attractive anti-cancer strategy and isoform-selective PI3K inhibitors may act as potent cancer immunotherapeutic and anti-angiogenic agents.

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Cancers, 9, , , 2017

PMID: 28273837

In B cells, phosphatidylinositol 5-phosphate 4-kinase-α synthesizes PI(4,5)P2 to impact mTORC2 and Akt signaling.
Bulley SJ, Droubi A, Clarke JH, Anderson KE, Stephens LR, Hawkins PT, Irvine RF

Phosphatidylinositol 5-phosphate 4-kinases (PI5P4Ks) are enigmatic lipid kinases with physiological functions that are incompletely understood, not the least because genetic deletion and cell transfection have led to contradictory data. Here, we used the genetic tractability of DT40 cells to create cell lines in which endogenous PI5P4Kα was removed, either stably by genetic deletion or transiently (within 1 h) by tagging the endogenous protein genomically with the auxin degron. In both cases, removal impacted Akt phosphorylation, and by leaving one PI5P4Kα allele present but mutating it to be kinase-dead or have PI4P 5-kinase activity, we show that all of the effects on Akt phosphorylation were dependent on the ability of PI5P4Kα to synthesize phosphatidylinositol (4,5)-bisphosphate [PI(4,5)P2] rather than to remove PI5P. Although stable removal of PI5P4Kα resulted in a pronounced decrease in Akt phosphorylation at Thr308 and Ser473, in part because of reduced plasma membrane PIP3, its acute removal led to an increase in Akt phosphorylation only at Ser473. This process invokes activation primarily of mammalian target of rapamycin complex 2 (mTORC2), which was confirmed by increased phosphorylation of other mTORC2 substrates. These findings establish PI5P4Kα as a kinase that synthesizes a physiologically relevant pool of PI(4,5)P2 and as a regulator of mTORC2, and show a phenomenon similar to the "butterfly effect" described for phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase Iα [Hart JR, et al. (2015) Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 112(4):1131-1136], whereby through apparently the same underlying mechanism, the removal of a protein's activity from a cell can have widely divergent effects depending on the time course of that removal.

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Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, , 1091-6490, , 2016

PMID: 27601656

Phosphoproteomic Analyses of Interleukin 2 Signaling Reveal Integrated JAK Kinase-Dependent and -Independent Networks in CD8(+) T Cells.
Ross SH, Rollings C, Anderson KE, Hawkins PT, Stephens LR, Cantrell DA

Interleukin-2 (IL-2) is a fundamental cytokine that controls proliferation and differentiation of T cells. Here, we used high-resolution mass spectrometry to generate a comprehensive and detailed map of IL-2 protein phosphorylations in cytotoxic T cells (CTL). The data revealed that Janus kinases (JAKs) couple IL-2 receptors to the coordinated phosphorylation of transcription factors, regulators of chromatin, mRNA translation, GTPases, vesicle trafficking, and the actin and microtubule cytoskeleton. We identified an IL-2-JAK-independent SRC family Tyr-kinase-controlled signaling network that regulates ∼10% of the CTL phosphoproteome, the production of phosphatidylinositol (3,4,5)-trisphosphate (PIP3), and the activity of the serine/threonine kinase AKT. These data reveal a signaling framework wherein IL-2-JAK-controlled pathways coordinate with IL-2-independent networks of kinase activity and provide a resource toward the further understanding of the networks of protein phosphorylation that program CTL fate.

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Immunity, , 1097-4180, , 2016

PMID: 27566939

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Latest Publications

Class (I) Phosphoinositide 3-Kinases in the Tumor Microenvironment.

Gyori D, Chessa T, Hawkins PT

Cancers
9 : (2017)

PMID: 28273837

In B cells, phosphatidylinositol 5-phosphate 4-kinase-α synthesizes PI(4,5)P2 to impact mTORC2 and Akt signaling.

Bulley SJ, Droubi A, Clarke JH

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
1091-6490: (2016)

PMID: 27601656

Coincident signals from GPCRs and receptor tyrosine kinases are uniquely transduced by PI3Kβ in myeloid cells.

Houslay DM, Anderson KE, Chessa T

Science signaling
9 1937-9145:ra82 (2016)

PMID: 27531651

The inositol-3-phosphate synthase biosynthetic enzyme has distinct catalytic and metabolic roles.

Frej AD, Clark J, Roy CL

Molecular and cellular biology
1098-5549: (2016)

PMID: 26951199

Emerging evidence of signalling roles for PI(3,4)P2 in Class I and II PI3K-regulated pathways.

Hawkins PT, Stephens LR

Biochemical Society transactions
44 1470-8752:307-14 (2016)

PMID: 26862220

Inactivation of the Class II PI3K-C2β Potentiates Insulin Signaling and Sensitivity.

Alliouachene S, Bilanges B, Chicanne G

Cell reports
13 2211-1247:1881-94 (2015)

PMID: 26655903

Investigating the effect of arachidonate supplementation on the phosphoinositide content of MCF10a breast epithelial cells.

Anderson KE, Juvin V, Clark J

Advances in biological regulation
2212-4934: (2015)

PMID: 26639089

Localizing the lipid products of PI3Kγ in neutrophils.

Norton L, Lindsay Y, Deladeriere A

Advances in biological regulation
2212-4934: (2015)

PMID: 26596865

The cytotoxic T cell proteome and its shaping by the kinase mTOR.

Hukelmann JL, Anderson KE, Sinclair LV

Nature immunology
1529-2916: (2015)

PMID: 26551880

The regulatory subunits of PI3Kγ control distinct neutrophil responses.

Deladeriere A, Gambardella L, Pan D

Science signaling
8 1937-9145:ra8 (2015)

PMID: 25605974