ReviewCell Biology

Cracking the context-specific PI3K signaling code

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Science Signaling  07 Jan 2020:
Vol. 13, Issue 613, eaay2940
DOI: 10.1126/scisignal.aay2940


Specificity in signal transduction is determined by the ability of cells to “encode” and subsequently “decode” different environmental signals. Akin to computer software, this “signaling code” governs context-dependent execution of cellular programs through modulation of signaling dynamics and can be corrupted by disease-causing mutations. Class IA phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K) signaling is critical for normal growth and development and is dysregulated in human disorders such as benign overgrowth syndromes, cancer, primary immune deficiency, and metabolic syndrome. Despite decades of PI3K research, understanding of context-dependent regulation of the PI3K pathway and of the underlying signaling code remains rudimentary. Here, we review current knowledge on context-specific PI3K signaling and how technological advances now make it possible to move from a qualitative to quantitative understanding of this pathway. Insight into how cellular PI3K signaling is encoded or decoded may open new avenues for rational pharmacological targeting of PI3K-associated diseases. The principles of PI3K context-dependent signal encoding and decoding described here are likely applicable to most, if not all, major cell signaling pathways.

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