Background: As phosphoinositides can serve as signalling molecules within cells, the enzymes responsible for their synthesis and cleavage are likely to be involved in the transduction of signals from the cell surface through the cytoplasm. The precise role of the phosphoinositide 3-kinase that has been cloned from mammalian cells is not known, but it has been implicated in receptor-stimulated mitogenesis, glucose uptake and membrane ruffling. The enzyme can use phosphatidylinositol (PtdIns), PtdIns 4-phosphate and PtdIns (4,5)-bisphosphate as substrates in vitro, but it seems to phosphorylate PtdIns (4,5)-bisphosphate preferentially in vivo. The VPS34 gene product of yeast, by contrast, is a phosphoinositide 3-kinase homologue implicated in vacuolar protein sorting that apparently utilizes only PtdIns as a substrate. The significance of this difference in lipid-substrate preference and its relationship to the functions of the two phosphoinositide kinases is unknown.
Results: We have characterized a distinct PtdIns-specific phosphoinositide 3-kinase activity in mammalian cells. Unlike the previously identified, broad-specificity mammalian phosphoinositide kinase, this enzyme is resistant to the drug wortmannin and uses only PtdIns as a substrate in vitro; it therefore has the capacity to generate PtdIns 3-phosphate specifically. The newly characterized enzyme, which was purified by chromatography from cytosol, has biochemical and pharmacological characteristics distinct from those of the broad-specificity enzyme.
Conclusions: The enzyme we have characterized may serve to generate PtdIns 3-phosphate for fundamentally different roles in the cell from those of PtdIns (3,4)-bisphosphate and/or PtdIns (3,4,5)-trisphosphate. Furthermore, the functions of the VSP34 gene product, which may not be relevant to the broad-specificity mammalian phosphoinositide 3-kinase, may be related to those of the enzyme we describe.