Life Sciences Research for Lifelong Health

Klaus Okkenhaug

Please note, Klaus has recently taken up the position of 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.

Most of our work to date has focused on PI3Kδ. The activation of PI3Kδ is one of the first events that happen inside a T cell or B cell when it first is exposed to a foreign antigen. Because PI3Kδ is expressed at very low levels in other organs in the body, it is thought that targeting PI3K with drugs may be an effective way to suppress immune responses without some of the side effects associated with many immunosuppressive drugs in current use.

We therefore work closely with colleagues in pharmaceutical companies who have developed specific inhibitors against PI3Kδ or other forms of PI3K to help predict and understand the effect of such drugs on the immune system.

Latest Publications

Regulatory T Cell Migration Is Dependent on Glucokinase-Mediated Glycolysis.
Kishore M, Cheung KCP, Fu H, Bonacina F, Wang G, Coe D, Ward EJ, Colamatteo A, Jangani M, Baragetti A, Matarese G, Smith DM, Haas R, Mauro C, Wraith DC, Okkenhaug K, Catapano AL, De Rosa V, Norata GD, Marelli-Berg FM

Migration of activated regulatory T (Treg) cells to inflamed tissue is crucial for their immune-modulatory function. While metabolic reprogramming during Treg cell differentiation has been extensively studied, the bioenergetics of Treg cell trafficking remains undefined. We have investigated the metabolic demands of migrating Treg cells in vitro and in vivo. We show that glycolysis was instrumental for their migration and was initiated by pro-migratory stimuli via a PI3K-mTORC2-mediated pathway culminating in induction of the enzyme glucokinase (GCK). Subsequently, GCK promoted cytoskeletal rearrangements by associating with actin. Treg cells lacking this pathway were functionally suppressive but failed to migrate to skin allografts and inhibit rejection. Similarly, human carriers of a loss-of-function GCK regulatory protein gene-leading to increased GCK activity-had reduced numbers of circulating Treg cells. These cells displayed enhanced migratory activity but similar suppressive function, while conventional T cells were unaffected. Thus, GCK-dependent glycolysis regulates Treg cell migration.

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Immunity, 47, 1097-4180, 875-889.e10, 2017

PMID: 29166588

Multi-tissue DNA methylation age predictor in mouse.
Stubbs TM, Bonder MJ, Stark AK, Krueger F, Bolland D, Butcher G, Chandra T, Clark SJ, Corcoran A, Eckersley-Maslin M, Field L, Frising UC, Gilbert C, Guedes J, Hernando-Herraez I, Houseley J, Kemp F, MacQueen A, Okkenhaug K, Rhoades M, Santbergen MJC, Stebegg M, von Meyenn F, Stegle O, Reik W

DNA methylation changes at a discrete set of sites in the human genome are predictive of chronological and biological age. However, it is not known whether these changes are causative or a consequence of an underlying ageing process. It has also not been shown whether this epigenetic clock is unique to humans or conserved in the more experimentally tractable mouse.

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Genome biology, 18, 1474-760X, 68, 2017

PMID: 28399939

Obesity-Induced Metabolic Stress Leads to Biased Effector Memory CD4(+) T Cell Differentiation via PI3K p110δ-Akt-Mediated Signals.
Mauro C, Smith J, Cucchi D, Coe D, Fu H, Bonacina F, Baragetti A, Cermenati G, Caruso D, Mitro N, Catapano AL, Ammirati E, Longhi MP, Okkenhaug K, Norata GD, Marelli-Berg FM

Low-grade systemic inflammation associated to obesity leads to cardiovascular complications, caused partly by infiltration of adipose and vascular tissue by effector T cells. The signals leading to T cell differentiation and tissue infiltration during obesity are poorly understood. We tested whether saturated fatty acid-induced metabolic stress affects differentiation and trafficking patterns of CD4(+) T cells. Memory CD4(+) T cells primed in high-fat diet-fed donors preferentially migrated to non-lymphoid, inflammatory sites, independent of the metabolic status of the hosts. This was due to biased CD4(+) T cell differentiation into CD44(hi)-CCR7(lo)-CD62L(lo)-CXCR3(+)-LFA1(+) effector memory-like T cells upon priming in high-fat diet-fed animals. Similar phenotype was observed in obese subjects in a cohort of free-living people. This developmental bias was independent of any crosstalk between CD4(+) T cells and dendritic cells and was mediated via direct exposure of CD4(+) T cells to palmitate, leading to increased activation of a PI3K p110δ-Akt-dependent pathway upon priming.

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Cell metabolism, , 1932-7420, , 2017

PMID: 28190771

Group Members

Latest Publications

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

Clinical spectrum and features of activated phosphoinositide 3-kinase δ syndrome: A large patient cohort study.

Coulter TI, Chandra A, Bacon CM

The Journal of allergy and clinical immunology
1097-6825: (2016)

PMID: 27555459

BACH2 regulates CD8(+) T cell differentiation by controlling access of AP-1 factors to enhancers.

Roychoudhuri R, Clever D, Li P

Nature immunology
1529-2916: (2016)

PMID: 27158840

The transcription factor BACH2 promotes tumor immunosuppression.

Roychoudhuri R, Eil RL, Clever D

The Journal of clinical investigation
1558-8238: (2016)

PMID: 26731475

Oncogenic PI3Kα promotes multipotency in breast epithelial cells.

Okkenhaug K, Roychoudhuri R

Science signaling
8 1937-9145:pe3 (2015)

PMID: 26535006