Class II/III PI3Ks (phosphoinositide 3-kinases) produce the PtdIns(3)P lipid that is involved in intracellular vesicular trafficking. In contrast with class I PI3Ks, the potential signalling roles of class II/III PI3Ks are poorly understood. In a recent article in the Biochemical Journal, Bago and co-workers report that Vps34 (vacuolar protein sorting 34), the only class III PI3K, controls the activity of SGK3 (serum- and glucocorticoid-regulated protein kinase 3). Like other AGC kinases, the SGKs (SGK1, SGK2 and SGK3) are activated by dual phosphorylation. Unlike its cousins SGK1 and SGK2, SGK3 contains a PtdIns(3)P-binding domain, providing an additional element of regulation. The study by Bago et al. characterizes and makes extensive use of a Novartis Vps34 inhibitor (VPS34-IN1) that inhibits this PI3K isoform with nanomolar potency, without affecting other lipid kinases or more than 300 protein kinases. The authors show that this compound very rapidly reduced PtdIns(3)P levels at the endosome with concomitant loss of SGK3 phosphorylation. Co-inhibition of class I PI3Ks led to a further reduction in SGK3 activity, indicating that class I PI3Ks may also regulate SGK3 activity through an additional, currently unknown, mechanism. It remains to be assessed whether the novel PI3K–protein kinase connection established by this study is subject to acute cellular stimulation or is part of a constitutive housekeeping function. VPS34-IN1 will provide a useful tool to decipher the kinase-dependent functions of Vps34, with acute changes in SGK3 phosphorylation and subcellular localization being new biomarkers of Vps34 activity.

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