Phill Hawkins

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.

COINCIDENT SIGNALS FROM GPCRS AND RECEPTOR TYROSINE KINASES ARE UNIQUELY TRANSDUCED BY PI3KΒ IN MYELOID CELLS.
Houslay DM, Anderson KE, Chessa T, Kulkarni S, Fritsch R, Downward J, Backer JM, Stephens LR, Hawkins PT
VIEW ABSTRACT
Science signaling, 9, 1937-9145, ra82, 2016
PMID: 27531651

Latest Publications

How is the acyl chain composition of phosphoinositides created and does it matter?
Barneda D, Cosulich S, Stephens L, Hawkins P

The phosphoinositide (PIPn) family of signalling phospholipids are central regulators in membrane cell biology. Their varied functions are based on the phosphorylation pattern of their inositol ring, which can be recognized by selective binding domains in their effector proteins and be modified by a series of specific PIPn kinases and phosphatases, which control their interconversion in a spatial and temporal manner. Yet, a unique feature of PIPns remains largely unexplored: their unusually uniform acyl chain composition. Indeed, while most phospholipids present a range of molecular species comprising acyl chains of diverse length and saturation, PIPns in several organisms and tissues show the predominance of a single hydrophobic backbone, which in mammals is composed of arachidonoyl and stearoyl chains. Despite evolution having favoured this specific PIPn configuration, little is known regarding the mechanisms and functions behind it. In this review, we explore the metabolic pathways that could control the acyl chain composition of PIPns as well as the potential roles of this selective enrichment. While our understanding of this phenomenon has been constrained largely by the technical limitations in the methods traditionally employed in the PIPn field, we believe that the latest developments in PIPn analysis should shed light onto this old question.

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Biochemical Society transactions, 47, 5, 31 10 2019

DOI: 10.1042/BST20190205

PMID: 31657437

The Parkinson's gene PINK1 activates Akt via PINK1 kinase-dependent regulation of the phospholipid PI(3,4,5)P.
Furlong RM, Lindsay A, Anderson KE, Hawkins PT, Sullivan AM, O'Neill C

Akt signalling is central to cell survival, metabolism, protein and lipid homeostasis, and is impaired in Parkinson's disease(PD). Akt activation is reduced in the PD brain, and by many PD-causing genes, including PINK1(PTEN-induced putative kinase-1). This study investigated the mechanisms by which PINK1 regulates Akt signalling. Our results reveal for the first time that PINK1 constitutively activates Akt in a PINK1-kinase dependent manner in the absence of growth factors, and enhances Akt activation in normal growth medium. In PINK1 modified MEFs, agonist-induced Akt signalling failed in the absence of PINK1, due to significantly impaired PINK1 kinase-dependent increases in PI(3,4,5)P at both plasma membrane and Golgi. In the absence of PINK1, PI(3,4,5)P levels did not increase in the Golgi, and there was significant Golgi fragmentation, a recognised characteristic of PD neuropathology. PINK1 kinase activity protected the Golgi from fragmentation in an Akt-dependent fashion. This study demonstrates a new role for PINK1 as a primary upstream activator of Akt via PINK1 kinase-dependent regulation of its primary activator PI(3,4,5)P, providing novel mechanistic information on how loss of PINK1 impairs Akt signalling in PD.

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Journal of cell science, , 1477-9137, 2019

PMID: 31540955

Frontline Science: TNF-α and GM-CSF1 priming augments the role of SOS1/2 in driving activation of Ras, PI3K-γ, and neutrophil proinflammatory responses.
Suire S, Baltanas FC, Segonds-Pichon A, Davidson K, Santos E, Hawkins PT, Stephens LR

Circulating neutrophils are, by necessity, quiescent and relatively unresponsive to acute stimuli. In regions of inflammation, mediators can prime neutrophils to react to acute stimuli with stronger proinflammatory, pathogen-killing responses. In neutrophils G protein-coupled receptor (GPCR)-driven proinflammatory responses, such as reactive oxygen species (ROS) formation and accumulation of the key intracellular messenger phosphatidylinositol (3,4,5)-trisphosphate (PIP ), are highly dependent on PI3K-γ, a Ras-GTP, and Gβγ coincidence detector. In unprimed cells, the major GPCR-triggered activator of Ras is the Ras guanine nucleotide exchange factor (GEF), Ras guanine nucleotide releasing protein 4 (RasGRP4). Although priming is known to increase GPCR-PIP signaling, the mechanisms underlying this augmentation remain unclear. We used genetically modified mice to address the role of the 2 RasGEFs, RasGRP4 and son of sevenless (SOS)1/2, in neutrophil priming. We found that following GM-CSF/TNFα priming, RasGRP4 had only a minor role in the enhanced responses. In contrast, SOS1/2 acquired a substantial role in ROS formation, PIP accumulation, and ERK activation in primed cells. These results suggest that SOS1/2 signaling plays a key role in determining the responsiveness of neutrophils in regions of inflammation.

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Journal of leukocyte biology, , 1938-3673, 2019

PMID: 30720883