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.
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.
The pre-conceptual, intrauterine, and early life environments can have a profound and long-lasting impact on the developmental trajectories and health outcomes of the offspring. Given the relatively low success rates of Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART; ~25%), additives and adjuvants, such as glucocorticoids, are utilized to improve the success rate. Considering the dynamic developmental events that occur during this window, these exposures may alter blastocyst formation at a molecular level, and as such, affect not only the viability of the embryo and ability of the blastocyst to implant, but also the developmental trajectory of the first three cell lineages, ultimately influencing the physiology of the embryo. In this study we present a comprehensive single-cell transcriptome, methylome and small RNA atlas in the day 7 human embryo. We demonstrate that, despite no change in morphology and developmental features, preimplantation glucocorticoid exposure reprograms the molecular profile of the TE lineage and these changes are associated with an altered metabolic and inflammatory response. Our data also suggest that glucocorticoids can precociously mature the TE sub-lineages, supported by the presence of extravillous trophoblast markers in the polar sub-lineage and presence of X Chromosome dosage compensation. Further, we have elucidated that epigenetic regulation (DNA methylation and microRNAs (miRNAs)) likely underlie the transcriptional changes observed. This study suggests that exposures to exogenous compounds during preimplantation may unintentionally reprogram the human embryo, possibly leading to suboptimal development and longer-term health outcomes.
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.