Phosphoinositide 3-kinases-a historical perspective

Subcell Biochem. 2012;58:95-110. doi: 10.1007/978-94-007-3012-0_4.


The phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI 3-K) signal relay pathway represents arguably one of the most intensely studied mechanisms by which extracellular signals elicit cellular responses through the generation of second messengers that are associated with cell growth and transformation. This chapter reviews the many landmark discoveries in the PI 3-K signaling pathway in biology and disease, from the identification of a novel phosphoinositide kinase activity associated with transforming oncogenes in the 1980s, to the identification of oncogenic mutations in the catalytic subunit of PI 3-K in the mid 2000s. Two and a half decades of intense research have provided clear evidence that the PI 3-K pathway controls virtually all aspects of normal cellular physiology, and that deregulation of one or more proteins that regulate or transduce the PI 3-K signal ultimately leads to human pathology. The most recent efforts have focused on the development of specific PI 3-K inhibitors that are currently being evaluated in clinical trials for a range of disease states.This chapter is devoted to a historical review of the landmark findings in the PI 3-K from its relatively humble beginnings in the early to mid 1980s up until the present day. When considering the key findings in the history of PI 3-K, it is essential to recognize the landmark studies by Lowell and Mabel Hokin in the 1950s who were the first to describe that extracellular agonists such as acetylcholine could stimulate the incorporation of radiolabeled phosphate into phospholipids (Hokin and Hokin 1953). Their work initiated an entirely new field of lipid signaling, and subsequent studies in the 1970s by Michell and Lapetina who linked phosphoinositide turnover to membrane-associated receptors that initiate intracellular calcium mobilization (Lapetina and Michell 1973). Later studies revealed that the phospholipase-mediated breakdown of the same minor membrane phospholipids such as PtdIns-4,5-P(2) (phosphatidylinositol-4,5-bisphosphate) is responsible for the release of two additional key second messengers, diacylglycerol (DG) and IP(3) (inositol-1,4,5-trisphosphate) (Kirk et al. 1981; Berridge 1983; Berridge et al. 1983). Berridge, Irvine and Schulz then revealed that one of the byproducts of this lipid signal relay pathway is the release of calcium from intracellular stores such as the endoplasmic reticulum (Streb et al. 1983). Finally, pioneering studies by Nishizuka in the late 1970s identified PKC (protein kinase C) as a phospholipid and diacylglycerol-activated serine/threonine protein kinase (Inoue et al. 1977; Takai et al. 1977). At this point, it probably seemed to most at the time that the story was complete, such that hydrolysis of phosphoinositides such as PtdIns-4,5-P(2) and PtdIns-4-P would account for the major mechanisms of agonist-stimulated lipid signaling leading to physiological responses. On the contrary, the story was far from complete and was about to become a lot more complex.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Calcium / metabolism
  • Diglycerides / metabolism
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Eukaryotic Cells / cytology
  • Eukaryotic Cells / drug effects
  • Eukaryotic Cells / enzymology*
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • History, 20th Century
  • History, 21st Century
  • Humans
  • Inositol 1,4,5-Trisphosphate / metabolism
  • Isoenzymes / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Isoenzymes / genetics
  • Isoenzymes / history
  • Isoenzymes / metabolism
  • Oncogenes*
  • Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases / genetics
  • Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases / history*
  • Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases / metabolism*
  • Phosphatidylinositol 4,5-Diphosphate / metabolism
  • Phosphoinositide-3 Kinase Inhibitors
  • Protein Kinase C / genetics
  • Protein Kinase C / metabolism*
  • Receptors, Cytoplasmic and Nuclear / genetics
  • Receptors, Cytoplasmic and Nuclear / metabolism
  • Second Messenger Systems*


  • Diglycerides
  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Isoenzymes
  • Phosphatidylinositol 4,5-Diphosphate
  • Phosphoinositide-3 Kinase Inhibitors
  • Receptors, Cytoplasmic and Nuclear
  • phosphatidylinositol receptors
  • Inositol 1,4,5-Trisphosphate
  • Protein Kinase C
  • Calcium