The Wnt signalling pathway plays fundamental roles in shaping developing embryos and controlling cell fate in adults. Mutations that cause slight alterations in Wnt signalling are associated with developmental defects as well as a myriad of diseases, such as cancer. 


A Parkinson’s patient who has lived with the disease for more than a decade has visited the MRC PPU to present £70,000 to researchers and find out more about how it will be spent.  …more
The ability of cells to move is crucial for many biological processes during development, and for normal tissue growth and repair. Cancer cells can usurp normal cellular processes and make them hyperactive, which leads to inappropriate cell movement that can contribute to metastasis. Understanding the molecular processes that regulate cell migration could uncover novel therapeutic targets against diseases such as cancer. …more
Mitophagy is the autophagic removal of damaged or impaired mitochondria. A new study published in Cell Metabolism from Ian Ganley and colleagues, shows for the first time that dopaminergic neurons within the substantia nigra undergo a striking amount of mitophagy. This is important because it is this population of neurons that degenerate in Parkinson’s Disease (PD) and impaired mitophagy has been implicated in this pathology. …more

Many congratulations to Pat Eyers, a PhD student in Philip Cohen’s laboratory in the MRC PPU from 1996-2000, who has just been promoted to Professor at the University of Liverpool’s, Department of Biochemistry.

A highlight of Pat’s PhD was converting SB203580-insensitive MAP kinase family members such as JNK, to the inhibitor-sensitive forms by a single amino-acid substitution. This was one of the first examples of manipulating the sensitivity of a protein kinase to an inhibitor to decipher its biological functions. 


Much research has focused on understanding how mutations in a protein kinase termed LRRK2, predisposes to Parkinson’s disease. Most pathogenic mutations occur within the kinase domain (G2019S) and GTPase ROC/COR domain (R1441G and Y1699C) of LRRK2. 

Recent studies undertaken in the Alessi, Mann and Pfeffer labs, have revealed that LRRK2 phosphorylates a group of Rab GTPase proteins including Rab29 (also known as Rab7L1), within the effector‐binding switch II motif. This enables Rab proteins to interact with new effectors including RILPL1 and RILPL2.

Mutations located within the kinase domain such as G2019S, directly stimulate protein kinase activity of LRRK2. 

Yu-Chiang Lai, a postdoc in Miratul Muqit’s lab at the MRC PPU, has been awarded a Birmingham Fellowship to establish his lab, aiming to understand the molecular mechanism of skeletal muscle atrophy and how exercise can improve health. …more

Derailment of the PI3K signalling network contributes to many human diseases including cancer.

Recent work undertaken mainly by Ruzica Bago in the Alessi lab has revealed that a poorly studied kinase related to Akt termed SGK3, is recruited and activated at endosomes, by virtue of its PX domain binding to 3-phosphoinositide (PtdIns(3)P-see Our initial data suggested that two types of phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K) termed Class I and Class III were responsible for generating the PtdIns(3)P that triggered SGK3 activation.


The University of Dundee held a special celebration for its staff members who had been in post for 25 years! Maisie Harkins (MRC-PPU lab support), Judith Hare (recently retired MRC-PPU administrator), Nicholas Helps (MRC-PPU head of DNA sequencing and health and safety) and David Campbell (head of the MRC mass spectrometry service) received a silver award from University of Dundee Principal Sir Pete Downes, for their tremendous service to MRC-PPU and University of Dundee.


There is compelling evidence that mutations which stimulate the activity of the LRRK2 protein kinase, cause Parkinson’s disease. Orally bioavailable, brain penetrant and potent LRRK2 kinase inhibitors are in the later stages of clinical development.  There is also increasing indication that LRRK2 is over-activated in some patients with sporadic Parkinson’s disease. Therefore, there is significant need to develop a robust assay to assess LRRK2 activity in humans.