Single-molecule study reveals how receptor and Ras synergistically activate PI3Kα and PIP3 signaling

Thomas C. Buckles, Brian P. Ziemba, Glenn R. Masson, Roger L. Williams, Joseph J. Falke (Lead / Corresponding author)

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Citations (Scopus)


Cellular pathways controlling chemotaxis, growth, survival, and oncogenesis are activated by receptor tyrosine kinases and small G-proteins of the Ras superfamily that stimulate specific isoforms of phosphatidylinositol-3-kinase (PI3K). These PI3K lipid kinases phosphorylate the constitutive lipid phosphatidylinositol-4,5-bisphosphate (PIP2) to produce the signaling lipid phosphatidylinositol-3,4,5-trisphosphate (PIP3). Progress has been made in understanding direct, moderate PI3K activation by receptors. In contrast, the mechanism by which receptors and Ras synergistically activate PI3K to much higher levels remains unclear, and two competing models have been proposed: membrane recruitment versus activation of the membrane-bound enzyme. To resolve this central mechanistic question, this study employs single-molecule imaging to investigate PI3K activation in a six-component pathway reconstituted on a supported lipid bilayer. The findings reveal that simultaneous activation by a receptor activation loop (from platelet-derived growth factor receptor, a receptor tyrosine kinase) and H-Ras generates strong, synergistic activation of PI3Kα yielding a large increase in net kinase activity via the membrane recruitment mechanism. Synergy requires receptor phospho-Tyr and two anionic lipids (phosphatidylserine and PIP2) to make PI3Kα competent for bilayer docking, as well as for subsequent binding and phosphorylation of substrate PIP2 to generate product PIP3. Synergy also requires recruitment to membrane-bound H-Ras, which greatly speeds the formation of a stable, membrane-bound PI3Kα complex, modestly slows its off rate, and dramatically increases its equilibrium surface density. Surprisingly, H-Ras binding significantly inhibits the specific kinase activity of the membrane-bound PI3Kα molecule, but this minor enzyme inhibition is overwhelmed by the marked enhancement of membrane recruitment. The findings have direct impacts for the fields of chemotaxis, innate immunity, inflammation, carcinogenesis, and drug design.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2396-2405
Number of pages10
JournalBiophysical Journal
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 5 Dec 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics


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