Jonathan studied Biological Chemistry at the University of Leicester and then obtained a PhD in new synthetic methods towards the synthesis of Taxol. After a postdoctoral position in the Pharmaceutical Science Department at the University of Nottingham, he moved to Cambridge to work in the local biotechnology industry for the next 11 years. He then took up a position with Babraham Bioscience Technologies to provide chemical services to the local biotechnology industry and to help commercialise and develop science originating from the Babraham Institute. He has now taken up a position within the Institute to provide biological chemistry support to the Institute. His group carry out chemical research focused on Institute science and ageing.
The ability of cells to store and rapidly mobilize energy reserves in response to nutrient availability is essential for survival. Breakdown of carbon stores produces acetyl-coenzyme-A (AcCoA), which fuels essential metabolic pathways and is also the acyl donor for protein lysine acetylation. Histones are abundant and highly acetylated proteins, accounting for 40% - 75% of cellular protein acetylation. Notably, histone acetylation is sensitive to AcCoA availability and nutrient replete conditions induce a substantial accumulation of acetylation on histones. Deacetylation releases acetate, which can be recycled to AcCoA, suggesting that deacetylation could be mobilized as an AcCoA source to feed downstream metabolic processes under nutrient depletion. While the notion of histones as a metabolic reservoir has been frequently proposed, experimental evidence has been lacking. Therefore, to test this concept directly, we used acetate-dependent ATP citrate lyase-deficient fibroblasts (Acly MEFs) and designed a pulse-chase experimental system to trace deacetylation-derived acetate and its incorporation into AcCoA. We found that dynamic protein deacetylation in Acly MEFs contributed carbons to AcCoA and proximal downstream metabolites. However, deacetylation had no significant effect on acyl-CoA pool sizes, and even at maximal acetylation, deacetylation transiently supplied less than 10% of cellular AcCoA. Together, our data reveal that although histone acetylation is dynamic and nutrient-sensitive, its potential for maintaining cellular AcCoA-dependent metabolic pathways is limited compared to cellular demand.
Activated PI3Kδ Syndrome (APDS) is a rare inherited inborn error of immunity caused by mutations that constitutively activate the p110 delta isoform of phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3Kδ), resulting in recurring pulmonary infections. Currently no licensed therapies are available. Here we report the results of an open-label trial in which five subjects were treated for 12 weeks with nemiralisib, an inhaled inhibitor of PI3Kδ, to determine safety, systemic exposure, together with lung and systemic biomarker profiles (Clinicaltrial.gov: NCT02593539). Induced sputum was captured to measure changes in phospholipids and inflammatory mediators, and blood samples were collected to assess pharmacokinetics of nemiralisib, and systemic biomarkers. Nemiralisib was shown to have an acceptable safety and tolerability profile, with cough being the most common adverse event, and no severe adverse events reported during the study. No meaningful changes in phosphatidylinositol (3,4,5)-trisphosphate (PIP3; the enzyme product of PI3Kδ) or downstream inflammatory markers in induced sputum, were observed following nemiralisib treatment. Similarly, there were no meaningful changes in blood inflammatory markers, or lymphocytes subsets. Systemic levels of nemiralisib were higher in subjects in this study compared to previous observations. While nemiralisib had an acceptable safety profile, there was no convincing evidence of target engagement in the lung following inhaled dosing and no downstream effects observed in either the lung or blood compartments. We speculate that this could be explained by nemiralisib not being retained in the lung for sufficient duration, suggested by the increased systemic exposure, perhaps due to pre-existing structural lung damage. In this study investigating a small number of subjects with APDS, nemiralisib appeared to be safe and well-tolerated. However, data from this study do not support the hypothesis that inhaled treatment with nemiralisib would benefit patients with APDS.
P-Rex1 and P-Rex2 are guanine-nucleotide exchange factors (GEFs) that activate Rac small GTPases in response to the stimulation of G protein-coupled receptors and phosphoinositide 3-kinase. P-Rex Rac-GEFs regulate the morphology, adhesion and migration of various cell types, as well as reactive oxygen species production and cell cycle progression. P-Rex Rac-GEFs also have pathogenic roles in the initiation, progression or metastasis of several types of cancer. With one exception, all P-Rex functions are known or assumed to be mediated through their catalytic Rac-GEF activity. Thus, inhibitors of P-Rex Rac-GEF activity would be valuable research tools. We have generated a panel of small-molecule P-Rex inhibitors that target the interface between the catalytic DH domain of P-Rex Rac-GEFs and Rac. Our best-characterized compound, P-Rex inhibitor 1 (PREX-in1), blocks the Rac-GEF activity of full-length P-Rex1 and P-Rex2, and of their isolated catalytic domains, at low-micromolar concentration, without affecting the activities of several other Rho-GEFs. PREX-in1 blocks the P-Rex1 dependent spreading of PDGF-stimulated endothelial cells and the production of reactive oxygen species in fMLP-stimulated mouse neutrophils. Structure-function analysis revealed critical structural elements of PREX-in1, allowing us to develop derivatives with increased efficacy, the best with an IC of 2 µM. In summary, we have developed PREX-in1 and derivative small-molecule compounds that will be useful laboratory research tools for the study of P-Rex function. These compounds may also be a good starting point for the future development of more sophisticated drug-like inhibitors aimed at targeting P-Rex Rac-GEFs in cancer.