Stephens Group

Stephens Group
Stephens Group
Len Stephens
Group Leader
Stephens Group

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

Barneda D, Stephens L, Hawkins P Signalling

Li et al present the results of a proximity-interaction screen in mammalian cells for the effector proteins of 25 members of the Arf family of small GTPases. This study has generated an important resource for those working in several areas of cell biology and provided an initial characterisation of two new cellular roles for some of the least well studied members of this family, the regulation of PLD1 by ARL11/14 in phagocytosis, and the regulation of PI4KB by ARL5A/5B in the Golgi.

+view abstract The EMBO journal, PMID: 35929178 05 Aug 2022

Droubi A, Wallis C, Anderson KE, Rahman S, de Sa A, Rahman T, Stephens LR, Hawkins PT, Lowe M Signalling

Upon antigen binding, the B cell receptor (BCR) undergoes clustering to form a signalosome that propagates downstream signaling required for normal B cell development and physiology. BCR clustering is dependent on remodeling of the cortical actin network, but the mechanisms that regulate actin remodeling in this context remain poorly defined. In this study, we identify the inositol 5-phosphatase INPP5B as a key regulator of actin remodeling, BCR clustering, and downstream signaling in antigen-stimulated B cells. INPP5B acts via dephosphorylation of the inositol lipid PI(4,5)P2 that in turn is necessary for actin disassembly, BCR mobilization, and cell spreading on immobilized surface antigen. These effects can be explained by increased actin severing by cofilin and loss of actin linking to the plasma membrane by ezrin, both of which are sensitive to INPP5B-dependent PI(4,5)P2 hydrolysis. INPP5B is therefore a new player in BCR signaling and may represent an attractive target for treatment of B cell malignancies caused by aberrant BCR signaling.

+view abstract The Journal of cell biology, PMID: 35878408 05 Sep 2022

Barneda D, Janardan V, Niewczas I, Collins DM, Cosulich S, Clark J, Stephens LR, Hawkins PT Signalling, Biological Chemistry

Phosphoinositides (PIPn) in mammalian tissues are enriched in the stearoyl/arachidonoyl acyl chain species ("C38:4"), but its functional significance is unclear. We have used metabolic tracers (isotopologues of inositol, glucose and water) to study PIPn synthesis in cell lines in which this enrichment is preserved to differing relative extents. We show that PIs synthesised from glucose are initially enriched in shorter/more saturated acyl chains, but then rapidly remodelled towards the C38:4 species. PIs are also synthesised by a distinct 're-cycling pathway', which utilises existing precursors and exhibits substantial selectivity for the synthesis of C38:4-PA and -PI. This re-cycling pathway is rapidly stimulated during receptor activation of phospholipase-C, both allowing the retention of the C38:4 backbone and the close coupling of PIPn consumption to its resynthesis, thus maintaining pool sizes. These results suggest that one property of the specific acyl chain composition of PIPn is that of a molecular code, to facilitate 'metabolic channelling' from PIP2 to PI via pools of intermediates (DG, PA and CDP-DG) common to other lipid metabolic pathways.

+view abstract The EMBO journal, PMID: 35771169 2022

Group Members

Len Stephens

Group Leader

Karen Anderson

Senior Research Associate

Tamara Chessa

Postdoc Research Scientist

Beth Cragoe

PhD Student

Piotr Kobialka

Visiting Student

Clement Pambrun

Visiting Student

Sarah Perrenot

Visiting Student

Simon Rudge

Senior Research Associate

Jemeen Sreedharan

Visiting Scientist

Marion Trebosc

Visiting Scientist

Anna Wulf

Visiting Student