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Concept: PHLPP


Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin with antioxidant properties. Tocopherols are the predominant form of vitamin E found in the diet and in supplements and have garnered interest for their potential cancer therapeutic and preventive effects, such as the dephosphorylation of Akt, a serine/threonine kinase with a pivotal role in cell growth, survival, and metabolism. Dephosphorylation of Akt at Ser(473) substantially reduces its catalytic activity and inhibits downstream signaling. We found that the mechanism by which α-tocopherol and γ-tocopherol facilitate this site-specific dephosphorylation of Akt was mediated through the pleckstrin homology (PH) domain-dependent recruitment of Akt and PHLPP1 (PH domain leucine-rich repeat protein phosphatase, isoform 1) to the plasma membrane. We structurally optimized these tocopherols to obtain derivatives with greater in vitro potency and in vivo tumor-suppressive activity in two prostate xenograft tumor models. Binding affinities for the PH domains of Akt and PHLPP1 were greater than for other PH domain-containing proteins, which may underlie the preferential recruitment of these proteins to membranes containing tocopherols. Molecular modeling revealed the structural determinants of the interaction with the PH domain of Akt that may inform strategies for continued structural optimization. By describing a mechanism by which tocopherols facilitate the dephosphorylation of Akt at Ser(473), we provide insights into the mode of antitumor action of tocopherols and a rationale for the translational development of tocopherols into novel PH domain-targeted Akt inhibitors.

Concepts: Protein, Cell membrane, Protein structure, Antioxidant, Signal transduction, Metabolism, PHLPP, Enzyme


Calpain has been shown to be involved in neurodegeneration, and in particular in retinal ganglion cell (RGC) death resulting from increased intraocular pressure (IOP) and ischemia. However, the specific roles of the two major calpain isoforms, calpain-1 and calpain-2, in RGC death have not been investigated. Here, we show that calpain-1 and calpain-2 were sequentially activated in RGC dendrites after acute IOP elevation. By combining the use of a selective calpain-2 inhibitor (C2I) and calpain-1 KO mice, we demonstrated that calpain-1 activity supported survival, while calpain-2 activity promoted cell death of RGCs after IOP elevation. Calpain-1 activation cleaved PH domain and leucine-rich repeat protein phosphatase 1 (PHLPP1) and activated the Akt pro-survival pathway, while calpain-2 activation cleaved striatal-enriched protein tyrosine phosphatase (STEP) and activated STEP-mediated pro-death pathway in RGCs after IOP elevation. Systemic or intravitreal C2I injection to wild-type mice 2h after IOP elevation promoted RGC survival and improved visual function. Our data indicate that calpain-1 and calpain-2 play opposite roles in high IOP-induced ischemic injury and that a selective calpain-2 inhibitor could prevent acute glaucoma-induced RGC death and blindness.

Concepts: Ischemia, Retina, Ischemic cascade, Gene, EC 3.1.3, PHLPP, Enzyme, PTEN


In order for cancer cells to survive during metastasis, they must overcome anoikis, a caspase-dependent cell death process triggered by extracellular matrix (ECM) detachment, and rectify detachment-induced metabolic defects that compromise cell survival. However, the precise signals used by cancer cells to facilitate their survival during metastasis remain poorly understood. We have discovered that oncogenic Ras facilitates the survival of ECM-detached cancer cells by using distinct effector pathways to regulate metabolism and block anoikis. Surprisingly, we find that while Ras-mediated phosphatidylinositol (3)-kinase signaling is critical for rectifying ECM-detachment-induced metabolic deficiencies, the critical downstream effector is serum and glucocorticoid-regulated kinase-1 (SGK-1) rather than Akt. Our data also indicate that oncogenic Ras blocks anoikis by diminishing expression of the phosphatase PHLPP1 (PH Domain and Leucine-Rich Repeat Protein Phosphatase 1), which promotes anoikis through the activation of p38 MAPK. Thus, our study represents a novel paradigm whereby oncogene-initiated signal transduction can promote the survival of ECM-detached cells through divergent downstream effectors.Cell Death and Differentiation advance online publication, 26 February 2016; doi:10.1038/cdd.2016.15.

Concepts: Metastasis, Cytosol, PHLPP, Gene expression, Apoptosis, Organism, Protein, Enzyme


Pleckstrin homology domain leucine-rich repeat protein phosphatase 2 (PHLPP2) has been known to exert tumor suppressive activity for long without much knowledge about its regulation and implications. Protein kinase B (Akt), Protein kinase C (PKC) and Ribosomal protein S6 Kinase (S6K) are known downtargets of PHLPP2, regulating a plethora of life processes viz. cell growth, survival and evasion from apoptosis. Present study decoded the crucial role of PHLPP2 in inducing apoptosis by its interaction with the newly found binding partner Mammalian sterile 20-like kinase 1 (Mst1) in berberine (BBR)-treated human hepatoma cells. HepG2 cells were exposed to (50 μM, 100 μM) berberine for different time intervals (18 h, 24 h). The results showed enhanced expression of PHLPP2 at transcriptional (2.13 fold, P < 0.01) and translational level (4 fold, P < 0.001), but not of PHLPP1, in berberine-treated HepG2 cells., Elevated expression of PHLPP2 was reported to inactivate Akt by dephosphorylating it on Ser473 (P < 0.001). As Akt is known to inhibit apoptotic effect of Mst1, we found that PHLPP2 mediated inactivation of Akt releases its repression from Mst1 leading to heightened phosphorylation of Mst1 on its activating site Thr183 (1.5 fold, P < 0.001). Consequently, coordination between PHLPP2, Akt and Mst1 stimulated downstream targets c-jun N-terminal kinase (JNK), Bim and Bak which are direct activators of pro-apoptotic proteins leading to cell death. Further, PHLPP2/Mst1 knock-down efficiently curtailed anti-proliferative effect of berberine by restoring the basal level of downstream anti-apoptotic proteins. In addition, pre-treatment of NAC (5 mM) showed that ROS generation was a primitive event to initiate activation of stress kinases. Thus, our findings suggest that PHLPP2, Akt and Mst1 constitute an autoinhibitory triangle which may be partly responsible for antiproliferative effect of berberine.

Concepts: Kinase, Protein, Adenosine triphosphate, DNA, Enzyme, Protein kinase, PHLPP, Signal transduction


PH domain leucine-rich repeat protein phosphatase (PHLPP) is a serine/threonine phosphatase that has been shown to regulate cell growth and survival through dephosphorylation of several members of the AGC family of kinases. G-protein coupled receptor kinase 5 (GRK5) is an AGC kinase that regulates phenylephrine (PE) induced cardiac hypertrophy through its non-canonical function of directly targeting proteins to the nucleus to regulate transcription. Here we investigated the possibility that the PHLPP2 isoform can regulate GRK5 induced cardiomyocyte hypertrophy in neonatal rat ventricular myocytes (NRVMs). We show that removal of PHLPP2 by siRNA induces hypertrophic growth of NRVMs as measured by cell size changes at baseline, potentiated PE induced cell size changes, and re-expression of fetal genes atrial natriuretic factor (ANF) and brain natriuretic peptide (BNP). Endogenous GRK5 and PHLPP2 were found to interact in NRVMs, and PE induced nuclear accumulation of GRK5 was enhanced upon down-regulation of PHLPP2. Conversely, overexpression of PHLPP2 blocked PE induced hypertrophic growth, re-expression of fetal genes, and nuclear accumulation of GRK5, which was dependent on its phosphatase activity. Finally, using siRNA against GRK5, we found that GRK5 was necessary for the hypertrophic response induced by PHLPP2 knockdown. Our findings demonstrate for the first time a novel regulation of GRK5 by the phosphatase PHLPP2, which modulates hypertrophic growth. Understanding the signaling pathways affected by PHLPP2 has potential for new therapeutic targets in the treatment of cardiac hypertrophy and failure.

Concepts: PHLPP, Brain natriuretic peptide, Atrial natriuretic peptide, Kinase, Gene expression, Protein, Enzyme, Signal transduction


Nutritional abundance associated with chronic inflammation and dyslipidemia impairs the functioning of endoplasmic reticulum (ER) thereby hampering cellular responses to insulin. PHLPP1 was identified as a phosphatase which inactivates Akt, the master regulator of insulin mediated glucose homeostasis. Given the suggestive role of PHLPP1 phosphatase in terminating insulin signalling pathways, deeper insights into its functional role in inducing insulin resistance are warranted. Here, we show that PHLPP1 expression is enhanced in skeletal muscle of insulin resistant rodents which also displayed ER stress, an important mediator of insulin resistance. Using cultured cells and PHLPP1 knockdown mice, we demonstrate that PHLPP1 facilitates the development of ER stress. Importantly, shRNA mediated ablation of PHLPP1 significantly improved glucose clearance from systemic circulation with enhanced expression of glucose transporter 4 (GLUT-4) in skeletal muscle. Mechanistically, we show that endogenous PHLPP1 but not PP2Cα interacts with and directly dephosphorylates AMPK Thr172in myoblasts without influencing its upstream kinase, LKB1. While the association between endogenous PHLPP1 and AMPK was enhanced in ER stressed cultured cells and soleus muscle of high fat diet fed mice, the basal interaction between PP2Ac and AMPK was minimally altered. Further, we show that PHLPP1α is phosphorylated by ERK1/2 at Ser932under ER stress which is required for its ability to interact with and dephosphorylate AMPK and thereby induce ER stress. Taken together, our data position PHLPP1 as a key regulator of ER stress.

Concepts: Adenosine triphosphate, PHLPP, Endoplasmic reticulum, Signal transduction, Glycogen, Enzyme, Glucose, Insulin


PI3K/AKT pathway activation is thought to be a driving force in metastatic melanomas. Members of the pleckstrin homology (PH) domain leucine-rich repeat protein Ser/Thr specific phosphatase family (PHLPP1 and PHLPP2) can regulate AKT activation. By dephosphorylating specific serine residues in the hydrophobic motif, PHLPP1 and PHLPP2 restrain AKT signalings, thereby regulating cell proliferation and survival. We here show that PHLPP1 expression was significantly downregulated or lost and correlated with metastatic potential in melanoma. Forcing expression of either PHLPP1 or PHLPP2 in melanoma cells inhibited cell proliferation, migration, and colony formation in soft agar; but PHLPP1 had the most profound inhibitory effect on metastasis. Moreover, expression of PH mutant forms of PHLPP1 continued to inhibit metastasis, whereas a phosphatase-dead C-terminal mutant did not. The introduction of activated PHLPP1-specific targets AKT2 or AKT3 also promoted melanoma metastasis, while the non-PHLPP1 target AKT1 did not. AKT2 and AKT3 could even rescue the PHLPP1-mediated inhibition of metastasis. An AKT inhibitor blocked the activity of AKT2 and inhibited AKT2-mediated tumor growth and metastasis in a preclinical mouse model. Our data demonstrate that PHLPP1 functions as a metastasis suppressor through its phosphatase activity, and suggest that PHLPP1 represents a novel diagnostic and therapeutic marker for metastatic melanoma.

Concepts: Chemotherapy, Inhibitor, Cancer, Pleckstrin homology domain, Metastasis, AKT, PHLPP, Melanoma


Evidence has been provided linking microRNAs (miRNAs) and diabetic complications, by the regulation of molecular pathways, including insulin-signaling, involved in the pathophysiology of vascular dysfunction. Methylglyoxal (MGO) accumulates in diabetes and is associated with cardiovascular complications. This study aims to analyze the contribution of miRNAs in the MGO-induced damaging effect on insulin responsiveness in mouse aortic endothelial cells (MAECs). miRNA modulation was performed by transfection of specific miRNA mimics and inhibitors in MAECs, treated or not with MGO. miRNA-target protein levels were evaluated by Western blot. PH domain leucine-rich repeat protein phosphatase 2 (PHLPP2) regulation by miR-214 was tested by luciferase assays and by the use of a target protector specific for miR-214 on PHLPP2-3'UTR. This study reveals a 4-fold increase of PHLPP2 in MGO-treated MAECs. PHLPP2 levels inversely correlate with miR-214 modulation. Moreover, miR-214 overexpression is able to reduce PHLPP2 levels in MGO-treated MAECs. Interestingly, a direct regulation of PHLPP2 is proved to be dependent by miR-214. Finally, the inhibition of miR-214 impairs the insulin-dependent Akt activation, while its overexpression rescues the insulin effect on Akt activation in MGO-treated MAECs. In conclusion, this study shows that PHLPP2 is a target of miR-214 in MAECs, and identifies miR-214 downregulation as a contributing factor to MGO-induced endothelial insulin-resistance.

Concepts: Diabetes mellitus, MicroRNA, RNA, Gene, Molecular biology, Insulin, PHLPP, Enzyme


The relative abundance of phosphoinositide (PI) species on the phagosome membrane fluctuates over the course of phagocytosis. PtdIns(3,4,5)P3 and PtdIns(3,4)P2 rapidly increase in the forming of the phagocytic cup, following which they disappear after sealing of the cup. In the present study, we monitored the clearance of these PI species using the enhanced green fluorescent protein-fused pleckstrin homology domain of Akt, a fluorescence probe that binds both PtdIns(3,4,5)P3 and PtdIns(3,4)P2 in Raw 264.7 macrophages. The clearance of PIs was much faster when the phagocytosed particles were coated with IgG. The effect of IgG was not observed in the macrophages deficient in FcγRIIb, an inhibitory IgG receptor. To identify the lipid phosphatases responsible for the FcγRIIb-accelerated PI clearance, we prepared a panel of lipid phosphatase-deficient cells. The lack of a PI 5-phosphatase Src homology 2 domain-containing inositol-5-phosphatase (SHIP)1 or SHIP2 impaired the FcγRIIb-accelerated clearance of PIs. The lack of a PI 4-phosphatase Inpp4a also impaired the accelerated PIs clearance. In the FcγRIIb- and Inpp4a-deficient cells, acidification of the formed phagosome was slowed. These results suggested that FcγRIIb drives the sequential dephosphorylation system comprising SHIPs and Inpp4a, and accelerates phagosome acidification.

Concepts: PHLPP, Phagolysosome, Protein, Phagosome, Phosphoinositide 3-kinase, Phagocytosis, Pleckstrin homology domain, Immune system


In the decade since their discovery, the PH domain leucine-rich repeat protein phosphatases (PHLPP) have emerged as critical regulators of cellular homeostasis, and their dysregulation is associated with various pathophysiologies, ranging from cancer to degenerative diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease. The two PHLPP isozymes, PHLPP1 and PHLPP2, were identified in a search for phosphatases that dephosphorylate Akt, and thus suppress growth factor signaling. However, given that there are over 200 000 phosphorylated residues in a single cell, and fewer than 50 Ser/Thr protein phosphatases, it is not surprising that PHLPP has many other cellular functions yet to be discovered, including a recently identified role in regulating the epigenome. Both PHLPP1 and PHLPP2 are commonly deleted in human cancers, supporting a tumor suppressive role. Conversely, the levels of one isozyme, PHLPP1, are elevated in diabetes. Thus, mechanisms to correctly control PHLPP activity in cells are critical for normal cellular homeostasis. This review summarizes the known functions of PHLPP and its role in disease.

Concepts: Disease, EC 3.1.3, AKT, Pleckstrin homology domain, Enzyme, Signal transduction, Cancer, PHLPP