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Curr Biol. 2011 Dec 6;21(23):1979-87. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2011.11.002. Epub 2011 Nov 23.

WNK1 promotes PIP₂ synthesis to coordinate growth factor and GPCR-Gq signaling.

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  • 1Department of Medicine, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, TX 75390, USA.



PLC-β signaling is generally thought to be mediated by allosteric activation by G proteins and Ca(2+). Although availability of the phosphatidylinositol-4,5-biphosphate (PIP(2)) substrate is limiting in some cases, its production has not been shown to be independently regulated as a signaling mechanism. WNK1 protein kinase is known to regulate ion homeostasis and cause hypertension when expression is increased by gene mutations. However, its signaling functions remain largely elusive.


Using diacylglycerol-stimulated TRPC6 and inositol trisphosphate-mediated Ca(2+) transients as cellular biosensors, we show that WNK1 stimulates PLC-β signaling in cells by promoting the synthesis of PIP(2) via stimulation of phosphatidylinositol 4-kinase IIIα. WNK1 kinase activity is not required. Stimulation of PLC-β by WNK1 and by Gα(q) are synergistic; WNK1 activity is essential for regulation of PLC-β signaling by G(q)-coupled receptors, and basal input from G(q) is necessary for WNK1 signaling via PLC-β. WNK1 further amplifies PLC-β signaling when it is phosphorylated by Akt kinase in response to insulin-like growth factor.


WNK1 is a novel regulator of PLC-β that acts by controlling substrate availability. WNK1 thereby coordinates signaling between G protein and Akt kinase pathways. Because PIP(2) is itself a signaling molecule, regulation of PIP(2) synthesis by WNK1 also allows the cell to initiate PLC signaling while independently controlling the effects of PIP(2) on other targets. These findings describe a new signaling pathway for Akt-activating growth factors, a mechanism for G protein-growth factor crosstalk, and a means to independently control PLC signaling and PIP(2) availability.

Copyright © 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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