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

Genome organization and chromatin analysis identify transcriptional downregulation of insulin-like growth factor signaling as a hallmark of aging in developing B cells.
Koohy H, Bolland DJ, Matheson LS, Schoenfelder S, Stellato C, Dimond A, Várnai C, Chovanec P, Chessa T, Denizot J, Manzano Garcia R, Wingett SW, Freire-Pritchett P, Nagano T, Hawkins P, Stephens L, Elderkin S, Spivakov M, Fraser P, Corcoran AE, Varga-Weisz PD

Aging is characterized by loss of function of the adaptive immune system, but the underlying causes are poorly understood. To assess the molecular effects of aging on B cell development, we profiled gene expression and chromatin features genome-wide, including histone modifications and chromosome conformation, in bone marrow pro-B and pre-B cells from young and aged mice.

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Genome biology, 19, 1474-760X, 126, 2018

PMID: 30180872

Profiling of phosphoinositide molecular species in human and mouse platelets identifies new species increasing following stimulation.
Mujalli A, Chicanne G, Bertrand-Michel J, Viars F, Stephens L, Hawkins P, Viaud J, Gaits-Iacovoni F, Severin S, Gratacap MP, Terrisse AD, Payrastre B

Phosphoinositides are bioactive lipids essential in the regulation of cell signaling as well as cytoskeleton and membrane dynamics. Their metabolism is highly active in blood platelets where they play a critical role during activation, at least through two well identified pathways involving phospholipase C and phosphoinositide 3-kinases (PI3K). Here, using a sensitive high-performance liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry method recently developed, we monitored for the first time the profiling of phosphatidylinositol (PI), PIP, PIP and PIP molecular species (fatty-acyl profiles) in human and mouse platelets during the course of stimulation by thrombin and collagen-related peptide. Furthermore, using class IA PI3K p110α or p110β deficient mouse platelets and a pharmacological inhibitor, we show the crucial role of p110β and the more subtle role of p110α in the production of PIP molecular species following stimulation. This comprehensive platelet phosphoinositides profiling provides important resources for future studies and reveals new information on phosphoinositides biology, similarities and differences in mouse and human platelets and unexpected dramatic increase in low-abundance molecular species of PIP during stimulation, opening new perspectives in phosphoinositide signaling in platelets.

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Biochimica et biophysica acta, , 0006-3002, , 2018

PMID: 29902570

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.

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JCI insight, 3, 2379-3708, , 2018

PMID: 29875321

Group Members

Latest Publications

PTEN Regulates PI(3,4)P2 Signaling Downstream of Class I PI3K.

Malek M, Kielkowska A, Chessa T

Molecular cell
1097-4164: (2017)

PMID: 29056325

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