The ubiquitously expressed phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K) family of lipid kinases control diverse cellular functions including cell survival, proliferation, metabolism and migration. Class I PI3Ks generate two distinct 3-phosphoinositide lipid messengers, PI(3,4,5)P3 (PIP3) and PI(3,4)P2, that recruit signaling effectors such as pleckstrin homology (PH) domain-containing proteins. Historically, the function of PI3K signaling has often been attributed to PIP3, with PI(3,4)P2 considered an inconsequential byproduct of PIP3 hydrolysis by SHIP phosphatases. However, accumulating evidence has demonstrated that PI(3,4)P2 directs a distinct branch of the PI3K pathway that regulates a variety of cellular processes with relevance to health and disease, such as B cell activation and autoantibody production, insulin sensitivity, neuronal dynamics, endocytosis and cell migration. Signaling through PI(3,4)P2 can be negatively regulated by inositol polyphosphate 4-phosphatases (INPP4A and INPP4B), which selectively degrade PI(3,4)P2. A number of signaling proteins that specifically bind to PI(3,4)P2 have been characterized, including the tandem PH domain-containing proteins (TAPP1 and TAPP2) and lamellipodin/RAPH1. A number of PIP3-binding proteins also bind to PI(3,4)P2, such as the protein kinase Akt/PKB, the most studied effector of PI3K signaling. Here, we review the current progress in understanding the functions and mechanisms of action of the PI(3,4)P2-specific phosphatases and binding proteins. A summary of available data addressing the relative contribution of PI(3,4)P2 versus PIP3 in regulation of Akt is provided to highlight the potential independent role of PI(3,4)P2 in regulating some PIP3-binding proteins. In summary, PI(3,4)P2-specific phosphatases and binding proteins are now firmly established players in cell biology, and this "neglected" phosphoinositide needs to take its place as one of the central components of the PI3K signaling pathway.
Keywords: Akt/PKB; Chemotaxis; Cytoskeleton; Inositol phosphatase; Phosphatidylinositol 3,4 bisphosphate; Phosphoinositide 3-kinase.
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