Life Sciences Research for Lifelong Health

Klaus Okkenhaug

Klaus Okkenhaug is now Professor of Immunology at the University of Cambridge. Visit his page there for full details of his current research.

Research Summary

Our group focuses on how a group of enzymes called phosphoinositide 3-kinases (PI3Ks) are used by cells of the immune system to instruct and coordinate defences against pathogens. Cells of the immune system can express up to eight different forms of PI3K, which act as second messenger signalling molecules within cells that control diverse of cellular functions and genetic programmes.

Our group tries to dissect the unique roles played by individual forms of PI3K with particular focus on their roles in B cells and T cells. We also ask what the effect of inhibiting or enhancing the activity of individual forms of PI3K has on immunity to infections.

Latest Publications

The PI3K p110δ Isoform Inhibitor Idelalisib Preferentially Inhibits Human Regulatory T Cell Function.
Chellappa S, Kushekhar K, Munthe LA, Tjønnfjord GE, Aandahl EM, Okkenhaug K, Taskén K

In chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), signaling through several prosurvival B cell surface receptors activates the PI3K signaling pathway. Idelalisib is a highly selective PI3K (PI3Kδ) isoform-specific inhibitor effective in relapsed/refractory CLL and follicular lymphoma. However, severe autoimmune adverse effects in association with the use of idelalisib in the treatment of CLL, particularly as a first-line therapy, gave indications that idelalisib may preferentially target the suppressive function of regulatory T cells (Tregs). On this background, we examined the effect of idelalisib on the function of human Tregs ex vivo with respect to proliferation, TCR signaling, phenotype, and suppressive function. Our results show that human Tregs are highly susceptible to PI3Kδ inactivation using idelalisib compared with CD4 and CD8 effector T cells (Teffs) as evident from effects on anti-CD3/CD28/CD2-induced proliferation (order of susceptibility [IC]: Treg [.5 μM] > CD4 Teff [2.0 μM] > CD8 Teff [6.5 μM]) and acting at the level of AKT and NF-κB phosphorylation. Moreover, idelalisib treatment of Tregs altered their phenotype and reduced their suppressive function against CD4 and CD8 Teffs. Phenotyping Tregs from CLL patients treated with idelalisib supported our in vitro findings. Collectively, our data show that human Tregs are more dependent on PI3Kδ-mediated signaling compared with CD4 and CD8 Teffs. This Treg-preferential effect could explain why idelalisib produces adverse autoimmune effects by breaking Treg-mediated tolerance. However, balancing effects on Treg sensitivity versus CD8 Teff insensitivity to idelalisib could still potentially be exploited to enhance inherent antitumor immune responses in patients.

+ View Abstract

Journal of immunology (Baltimore, Md. : 1950), , 1550-6606, , 2019

PMID: 30692213

PI3Kδ hyper-activation promotes development of B cells that exacerbate Streptococcus pneumoniae infection in an antibody-independent manner.
Stark AK, Chandra A, Chakraborty K, Alam R, Carbonaro V, Clark J, Sriskantharajah S, Bradley G, Richter AG, Banham-Hall E, Clatworthy MR, Nejentsev S, Hamblin JN, Hessel EM, Condliffe AM, Okkenhaug K

Streptococcus pneumoniae is a major cause of pneumonia and a leading cause of death world-wide. Antibody-mediated immune responses can confer protection against repeated exposure to S. pneumoniae, yet vaccines offer only partial protection. Patients with Activated PI3Kδ Syndrome (APDS) are highly susceptible to S. pneumoniae. We generated a conditional knock-in mouse model of this disease and identify a CD19B220 B cell subset that is induced by PI3Kδ signaling, resides in the lungs, and is correlated with increased susceptibility to S. pneumoniae during early phases of infection via an antibody-independent mechanism. We show that an inhaled PI3Kδ inhibitor improves survival rates following S. pneumoniae infection in wild-type mice and in mice with activated PI3Kδ. These results suggest that a subset of B cells in the lung can promote the severity of S. pneumoniae infection, representing a potential therapeutic target.

+ View Abstract

Nature communications, 9, 2041-1723, 3174, 2018

PMID: 30093657

Compensation between CSF1R+ macrophages and Foxp3+ Treg cells drives resistance to tumor immunotherapy.
Gyori D, Lim EL, Grant FM, Spensberger D, Roychoudhuri R, Shuttleworth SJ, Okkenhaug K, Stephens LR, Hawkins PT

Redundancy and compensation provide robustness to biological systems but may contribute to therapy resistance. Both tumor-associated macrophages (TAMs) and Foxp3+ regulatory T (Treg) cells promote tumor progression by limiting antitumor immunity. Here we show that genetic ablation of CSF1 in colorectal cancer cells reduces the influx of immunosuppressive CSF1R+ TAMs within tumors. This reduction in CSF1-dependent TAMs resulted in increased CD8+ T cell attack on tumors, but its effect on tumor growth was limited by a compensatory increase in Foxp3+ Treg cells. Similarly, disruption of Treg cell activity through their experimental ablation produced moderate effects on tumor growth and was associated with elevated numbers of CSF1R+ TAMs. Importantly, codepletion of CSF1R+ TAMs and Foxp3+ Treg cells resulted in an increased influx of CD8+ T cells, augmentation of their function, and a synergistic reduction in tumor growth. Further, inhibition of Treg cell activity either through systemic pharmacological blockade of PI3Kδ, or its genetic inactivation within Foxp3+ Treg cells, sensitized previously unresponsive solid tumors to CSF1R+ TAM depletion and enhanced the effect of CSF1R blockade. These findings identify CSF1R+ TAMs and PI3Kδ-driven Foxp3+ Treg cells as the dominant compensatory cellular components of the immunosuppressive tumor microenvironment, with implications for the design of combinatorial immunotherapies.

+ View Abstract

JCI insight, 3, 2379-3708, , 2018

PMID: 29875321

Group Members

Latest Publications

The PI3K p110δ Isoform Inhibitor Idelalisib Preferentially Inhibits Human Regulatory T Cell Function.

Chellappa S, Kushekhar K, Munthe LA

Journal of immunology (Baltimore, Md. : 1950)
1550-6606: (2019)

PMID: 30692213

PI3K induces B-cell development and regulates B cell identity.

Abdelrasoul H, Werner M, Setz CS

Scientific reports
8 2045-2322:1327 (2018)

PMID: 29358580

Regulatory T Cell Migration Is Dependent on Glucokinase-Mediated Glycolysis.

Kishore M, Cheung KCP, Fu H

Immunity
47 1097-4180:875-889.e10 (2017)

PMID: 29166588

Multi-tissue DNA methylation age predictor in mouse.

Stubbs TM, Bonder MJ, Stark AK

Genome biology
18 1474-760X:68 (2017)

PMID: 28399939

Targeting PI3K in Cancer: Impact on Tumor Cells, Their Protective Stroma, Angiogenesis, and Immunotherapy.

Okkenhaug K, Graupera M, Vanhaesebroeck B

Cancer discovery
2159-8290: (2016)

PMID: 27655435

Ionic immune suppression within the tumour microenvironment limits T cell effector function.

Eil R, Vodnala SK, Clever D

Nature
537 1476-4687:539-543 (2016)

PMID: 27626381

PI3Kδ and primary immunodeficiencies.

Lucas CL, Chandra A, Nejentsev S

Nature reviews. Immunology
1474-1741: (2016)

PMID: 27616589