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1.  Induction of Autophagy Is an Early Response to Gefitinib and a Potential Therapeutic Target in Breast Cancer  
PLoS ONE  2013;8(10):e76503.
Gefitinib (Iressa®, ZD1839) is a small molecule inhibitor of the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) tyrosine kinase. We report on an early cellular response to gefitinib that involves induction of functional autophagic flux in phenotypically diverse breast cancer cells that were sensitive (BT474 and SKBR3) or insensitive (MCF7-GFPLC3 and JIMT-1) to gefitinib. Our data show that elevation of autophagy in gefitinib-treated breast cancer cells correlated with downregulation of AKT and ERK1/2 signaling early in the course of treatment. Inhibition of autophagosome formation by BECLIN-1 or ATG7 siRNA in combination with gefitinib reduced the abundance of autophagic organelles and sensitized SKBR3 but not MCF7-GFPLC3 cells to cell death. However, inhibition of the late stage of gefitinib-induced autophagy with hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) or bafilomycin A1 significantly increased (p<0.05) cell death in gefitinib-sensitive SKBR3 and BT474 cells, as well as in gefitinib-insensitive JIMT-1 and MCF7-GFPLC3 cells, relative to the effects observed with the respective single agents. Treatment with the combination of gefitinib and HCQ was more effective (p<0.05) in delaying tumor growth than either monotherapy (p>0.05), when compared to vehicle-treated controls. Our results also show that elevated autophagosome content following short-term treatment with gefitinib is a reversible response that ceases upon removal of the drug. In aggregate, these data demonstrate that elevated autophagic flux is an early response to gefitinib and that targeting EGFR and autophagy should be considered when developing new therapeutic strategies for EGFR expressing breast cancers.
PMCID: PMC3795739  PMID: 24146879
2.  Induction of Autophagy during Extracellular Matrix Detachment Promotes Cell Survival 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2008;19(3):797-806.
Autophagy has been proposed to promote cell death during lumen formation in three-dimensional mammary epithelial acini because numerous autophagic vacuoles are observed in the dying central cells during morphogenesis. Because these central cells die due to extracellular matrix (ECM) deprivation (anoikis), we have directly interrogated how matrix detachment regulates autophagy. Detachment induces autophagy in both nontumorigenic epithelial lines and in primary epithelial cells. RNA interference-mediated depletion of autophagy regulators (ATGs) inhibits detachment-induced autophagy, enhances apoptosis, and reduces clonogenic recovery after anoikis. Remarkably, matrix-detached cells still exhibit autophagy when apoptosis is blocked by Bcl-2 overexpression, and ATG depletion reduces the clonogenic survival of Bcl-2–expressing cells after detachment. Finally, stable reduction of ATG5 or ATG7 in MCF-10A acini enhances luminal apoptosis during morphogenesis and fails to elicit long-term luminal filling, even when combined with apoptotic inhibition mediated by Bcl-2 overexpression. Thus, autophagy promotes epithelial cell survival during anoikis, including detached cells harboring antiapoptotic lesions.
PMCID: PMC2262959  PMID: 18094039
3.  Cytopathic effects of the cytomegalovirus-encoded apoptosis inhibitory protein vMIA 
The Journal of Cell Biology  2006;174(7):985-996.
Replication of human cytomegalovirus (CMV) requires the expression of the viral mitochondria–localized inhibitor of apoptosis (vMIA). vMIA inhibits apoptosis by recruiting Bax to mitochondria, resulting in its neutralization. We show that vMIA decreases cell size, reduces actin polymerization, and induces cell rounding. As compared with vMIA-expressing CMV, vMIA-deficient CMV, which replicates in fibroblasts expressing the adenoviral apoptosis suppressor E1B19K, induces less cytopathic effects. These vMIA effects can be separated from its cell death–inhibitory function because vMIA modulates cellular morphology in Bax-deficient cells. Expression of vMIA coincided with a reduction in the cellular adenosine triphosphate (ATP) level. vMIA selectively inhibited one component of the ATP synthasome, namely, the mitochondrial phosphate carrier. Exposure of cells to inhibitors of oxidative phosphorylation produced similar effects, such as an ATP level reduced by 30%, smaller cell size, and deficient actin polymerization. Similarly, knockdown of the phosphate carrier reduced cell size. Our data suggest that the cytopathic effect of CMV can be explained by vMIA effects on mitochondrial bioenergetics.
PMCID: PMC2064390  PMID: 16982800
4.  Cytomegalovirus Proteins vMIA and m38.5 Link Mitochondrial Morphogenesis to Bcl-2 Family Proteins▿  
Journal of Virology  2008;82(13):6232-6243.
Apoptosis is a host defense mechanism against viruses that can be subverted by viral gene products. Human cytomegalovirus encodes viral mitochondria-localized inhibitor of apoptosis (vMIA; also known as pUL37x1), which is targeted to mitochondria and functions as a potent cell death suppressor by binding to and inhibiting proapoptotic Bcl-2 family members Bax and Bak. vMIA expression also dramatically alters mitochondrial morphology, causing the fragmentation of these organelles. A potential ortholog of vMIA, m38.5, which was identified in murine cytomegalovirus, has been shown to localize to mitochondria and protect against chemically induced apoptosis by unknown mechanisms. Despite sharing negligible homology with vMIA and no region detectably corresponding to the vMIA Bax-binding domain, we find that m38.5, like vMIA, binds to Bax and recruits Bax to mitochondria. Interestingly, m38.5 and vMIA appear to block Bax downstream of translocation to mitochondria and after an initial stage of Bax conformational change. In contrast to vMIA, m38.5 neither binds to Bak nor causes mitochondrial fragmentation. Consistently with Bax-selective inactivation by m38.5, m38.5 fragments mitochondria in Bak knockout (KO) cells and protects Bak KO cells from apoptosis better than Bax KO cells. Thus, vMIA and m38.5 share some, but not all, features of apoptosis regulation through Bcl-2 family interaction and allow the dissection of Bax translocation into discrete steps.
PMCID: PMC2447053  PMID: 18417572
5.  An Atg1/Atg13 Complex with Multiple Roles in TOR-mediated Autophagy Regulation 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2009;20(7):2004-2014.
The TOR kinases are conserved negative regulators of autophagy in response to nutrient conditions, but the signaling mechanisms are poorly understood. Here we describe a complex containing the protein kinase Atg1 and the phosphoprotein Atg13 that functions as a critical component of this regulation in Drosophila. We show that knockout of Atg1 or Atg13 results in a similar, selective defect in autophagy in response to TOR inactivation. Atg1 physically interacts with TOR and Atg13 in vivo, and both Atg1 and Atg13 are phosphorylated in a nutrient-, TOR- and Atg1 kinase-dependent manner. In contrast to yeast, phosphorylation of Atg13 is greatest under autophagic conditions and does not preclude Atg1-Atg13 association. Atg13 stimulates both the autophagic activity of Atg1 and its inhibition of cell growth and TOR signaling, in part by disrupting the normal trafficking of TOR. In contrast to the effects of normal Atg13 levels, increased expression of Atg13 inhibits autophagosome expansion and recruitment of Atg8/LC3, potentially by decreasing the stability of Atg1 and facilitating its inhibitory phosphorylation by TOR. Atg1-Atg13 complexes thus function at multiple levels to mediate and adjust nutrient-dependent autophagic signaling.
PMCID: PMC2663935  PMID: 19225150
6.  Cisplatin-Induced Apoptosis Inhibits Autophagy, Which Acts as a Pro-Survival Mechanism in Human Melanoma Cells 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(2):e57236.
The interplay between a non-lethal autophagic response and apoptotic cell death is still a matter of debate in cancer cell biology. In the present study performed on human melanoma cells, we investigate the role of basal or stimulated autophagy in cisplatin-induced cytotoxicity, as well as the contribution of cisplatin-induced activation of caspases 3/7 and conventional calpains. The results show that, while down-regulating Beclin-1, Atg14 and LC3-II, cisplatin treatment inhibits the basal autophagic response, impairing a physiological pro-survival response. Consistently, exogenously stimulated autophagy, obtained with trehalose or calpains inhibitors (MDL-28170 and calpeptin), protects from cisplatin-induced apoptosis, and such a protection is reverted by inhibiting autophagy with 3-methyladenine or ATG5 silencing. In addition, during trehalose-stimulated autophagy, the cisplatin-induced activation of calpains is abrogated, suggesting the existence of a feedback loop between the autophagic process and calpains. On the whole, our results demonstrate that in human melanoma cells autophagy may function as a beneficial stress response, hindered by cisplatin-induced death mechanisms. In a therapeutic perspective, these findings suggest that the efficacy of cisplatin-based polychemotherapies for melanoma could be potentiated by inhibitors of autophagy.
PMCID: PMC3577730  PMID: 23437349
7.  A ginseng metabolite, compound K, induces autophagy and apoptosis via generation of reactive oxygen species and activation of JNK in human colon cancer cells 
Cell Death & Disease  2013;4(8):e750-.
Compound K (20-O-(β-D-glucopyranosyl)-20(S)-protopanaxadiol) is an active metabolite of ginsenosides and induces apoptosis in various types of cancer cells. This study investigated the role of autophagy in compound K-induced cell death of human HCT-116 colon cancer cells. Compound K activated an autophagy pathway characterized by the accumulation of vesicles, the increased positive acridine orange-stained cells, the accumulation of LC3-II, and the elevation of autophagic flux. Whereas blockade of compound K-induced autophagy by 3-methyladenein and bafilomycin A1 significantly increased cell viability. In addition, compound K augmented the time-dependent expression of the autophagy-related proteins Atg5, Atg6, and Atg7. However, knockdown of Atg5, Atg6, and Atg7 markedly inhibited the detrimental impact of compound K on LC3-II accumulation and cell vitality. Compound K-provoked autophagy was also linked to the generation of intracellular reactive oxygen species (ROS); both of these processes were mitigated by the pre-treatment of cells with the antioxidant N-acetylcysteine. Moreover, compound K activated the c-Jun NH2-terminal kinase (JNK) signaling pathway, whereas downregulation of JNK by its specific inhibitor SP600125 or by small interfering RNA against JNK attenuated autophagy-mediated cell death in response to compound K. Compound K also provoked apoptosis, as evidenced by an increased number of apoptotic bodies and sub-G1 hypodiploid cells, enhanced activation of caspase-3 and caspase-9, and modulation of Bcl-2 and Bcl-2-associated X protein expression. Notably, compound K-stimulated autophagy as well as apoptosis was induced by disrupting the interaction between Atg6 and Bcl-2. Taken together, these results indicate that the induction of autophagy and apoptosis by compound K is mediated through ROS generation and JNK activation in human colon cancer cells.
PMCID: PMC3763435  PMID: 23907464
apoptosis; autophagy; compound K; reactive oxygen species; colon cancer
8.  Beclin 1-Independent Pathway of Damage-Induced Mitophagy and Autophagic Stress: Implications for Neurodegeneration and Cell Death 
Autophagy  2007;3(6):663-666.
Growing evidence supports an active role for dysregulated macroautophagy (autophagic stress) in neuronal cell death and neurodegeneration. Alterations in mitochondrial function and dynamics are also strongly implicated in neurodegenerative diseases. Interestingly, whereas the core autophagy machinery is evolutionarily conserved and shared among constitutive and induced or selective autophagy, recent studies implicate distinct mechanisms regulating mitochondrial autophagy (mitophagy) in response to general autophagic stimuli. Little is known about pathways regulating selective, damage-induced mitophagy. We found that the parkinsonian neurotoxin MPP+ induces autophagy and mitochondrial degradation that is inhibited by siRNA knockdown of autophagy proteins Atg5, Atg7 and Atg8, but occurs independently of Beclin 1, a component of the class III (PIK3C3/Vps34) phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K) complex. Instead, MPP+-induced mitophagy is dependent upon MAPK signaling. Interestingly, all treatments that inhibited autophagy also conferred protection from MPP+-induced cell death. A prior human tissue study further supports a role for ERK/MAPK-regulated autophagy in Parkinson’s and Lewy body diseases. As competition for limiting amounts of Beclin 1 may serve to prevent harmful overactivation of autophagy, understanding mechanisms that bypass or complement a requirement for PI3K-Beclin 1 activity could lead to strategies to modulate autophagic stress in injured or degenerating neurons.
PMCID: PMC2779565  PMID: 17622797
autophagy; mitochondria; Parkinson’s disease; mitogen activated protein kinases; neuronal cell death; oxidative stress
9.  Piecemeal Microautophagy of the Nucleus Requires the Core Macroautophagy Genes 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2008;19(10):4492-4505.
Autophagy is a diverse family of processes that transport cytoplasm and organelles into the lysosome/vacuole lumen for degradation. During macroautophagy cargo is packaged in autophagosomes that fuse with the lysosome/vacuole. During microautophagy cargo is directly engulfed by the lysosome/vacuole membrane. Piecemeal microautophagy of the nucleus (PMN) occurs in Saccharomyces cerevisiae at nucleus-vacuole (NV) junctions and results in the pinching-off and release into the vacuole of nonessential portions of the nucleus. Previous studies concluded macroautophagy ATG genes are not absolutely required for PMN. Here we report using two biochemical assays that PMN is efficiently inhibited in atg mutant cells: PMN blebs are produced, but vesicles are rarely released into the vacuole lumen. Electron microscopy of arrested PMN structures in atg7, atg8, and atg9 mutant cells suggests that NV-junction–associated micronuclei may normally be released from the nucleus before their complete enclosure by the vacuole membrane. In this regard PMN is similar to the microautophagy of peroxisomes (micropexophagy), where the side of the peroxisome opposite the engulfing vacuole is capped by a structure called the “micropexophagy-specific membrane apparatus” (MIPA). The MIPA contains Atg proteins and facilitates terminal enclosure and fusion steps. PMN does not require the complete vacuole homotypic fusion genes. We conclude that a spectrum of ATG genes is required for the terminal vacuole enclosure and fusion stages of PMN.
PMCID: PMC2555948  PMID: 18701704
10.  ATG12 Conjugation to ATG3 Regulates Mitochondrial Homeostasis and Cell Death 
Cell  2010;142(4):590-600.
ATG12, an ubiquitin-like modifier required for macroautophagy, has a single known conjugation target, another autophagy regulator called ATG5. Here, we identify ATG3 as a substrate for ATG12 conjugation. ATG3 is the E2-like enzyme necessary for ATG8/LC3 lipidation during autophagy. ATG12-ATG3 complex formation requires ATG7 as the E1 enzyme and ATG3 autocatalytic activity as the E2, resulting in the covalent linkage of ATG12 onto a single lysine on ATG3. Surprisingly, disrupting ATG12 conjugation to ATG3 does not affect starvation-induced autophagy. Rather, the lack of ATG12-ATG3 complex formation produces an expansion in mitochondrial mass and inhibits cell death mediated by mitochondrial pathways. Overall, these results unveil a role for ATG12-ATG3 in mitochondrial homeostasis, and implicate the ATG12 conjugation system in cellular functions distinct from the early steps of autophagosome formation.
PMCID: PMC2925044  PMID: 20723759
11.  Constitutive Activation of Chaperone-mediated Autophagy in Cells with Impaired Macroautophagy 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2008;19(5):2179-2192.
Three different types of autophagy—macroautophagy, microautophagy, and chaperone-mediated autophagy (CMA)—contribute to degradation of intracellular components in lysosomes in mammalian cells. Although some level of basal macroautophagy and CMA activities has been described in different cell types and tissues, these two pathways are maximally activated under stress conditions. Activation of these two pathways is often sequential, suggesting the existence of some level of cross-talk between both stress-related autophagic pathways. In this work, we analyze the consequences of blockage of macroautophagy on CMA activity. Using mouse embryonic fibroblasts deficient in Atg5, an autophagy-related protein required for autophagosome formation, we have found that blockage of macroautophagy leads to up-regulation of CMA, even under basal conditions. Interestingly, different mechanisms contribute to the observed changes in CMA-related proteins and the consequent activation of CMA during basal and stress conditions in these macroautophagy-deficient cells. This work supports a direct cross-talk between these two forms of autophagy, and it identifies changes in the lysosomal compartment that underlie the basis for the communication between both autophagic pathways.
PMCID: PMC2366850  PMID: 18337468
12.  Lapatinib Induces Autophagy, Apoptosis and Megakaryocytic Differentiation in Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia K562 Cells 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(12):e29014.
Lapatinib is an oral, small-molecule, dual tyrosine kinase inhibitor of epidermal growth factor receptors (EGFR, or ErbB/Her) in solid tumors. Little is known about the effect of lapatinib on leukemia. Using human chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) K562 cells as an experimental model, we found that lapatinib simultaneously induced morphological changes resembling apoptosis, autophagy, and megakaryocytic differentiation. Lapatinib-induced apoptosis was accompanied by a decrease in mitochondrial transmembrane potential and was attenuated by the pancaspase inhibitor z-VAD-fmk, indicating a mitochondria-mediated and caspase-dependent pathway. Lapatinib-induced autophagic cell death was verified by LC3-II conversion, and upregulation of Beclin-1. Further, autophagy inhibitor 3-methyladenine as well as autophagy-related proteins Beclin-1 (ATG6), ATG7, and ATG5 shRNA knockdown rescued the cells from lapatinib-induced growth inhibition. A moderate number of lapatinib-treated K562 cells exhibited features of megakaryocytic differentiation. In summary, lapatinib inhibited viability and induced multiple cellular events including apoptosis, autophagic cell death, and megakaryocytic differentiation in human CML K562 cells. This distinct activity of lapatinib against CML cells suggests potential for lapatinib as a therapeutic agent for treatment of CML. Further validation of lapatinib activity in vivo is warranted.
PMCID: PMC3245247  PMID: 22216158
13.  MUC1 oncoprotein promotes autophagy in a survival response to glucose deprivation 
International journal of oncology  2009;34(6):1691-1699.
Tumor cells survive under conditions of nutrient deprivation by mechanisms that are not fully understood. The MUC1 oncoprotein is aberrantly overexpressed by most human carcinomas and blocks oxidative stress-induced death. The present studies show that MUC1 inhibits the induction of necrosis in response to the deprivation of glucose. MUC1 suppressed glucose deprivation-induced increases in reactive oxygen species (ROS) and thereby depletion of ATP and cell death. Cells respond to oxidative stress and energy depletion with the induction of autophagy. Our results demonstrate that MUC1 blocks depletion of ATP and sustains growth of glucose-deprived cells by a mechanism sensitive to the autophagy inhibitor, 3-methyladenine. Silencing expression of ATG7, a protein essential for the formation of autophagic vacuoles, also attenuated the MUC1-sustained increases in ATP and growth in response to glucose deprivation. Moreover, we found that MUC1 stimulates AMPK activation and thereby promotes lysosomal turnover of LC3-II, a marker of starvation-induced autophagic activity. These results indicate that MUC1 suppresses glucose deprivation-induced increases in ROS and thereby promotes ATP production and survival. The findings also indicate that the overexpression of MUC1 as found in human cancers could provide a survival advantage in micro-environments with low glucose levels.
PMCID: PMC3027209  PMID: 19424588
MUC1; glucose deprivation; oxidative stress; autophagy; ATG7; LC3-II; AMP-activated protein kinase
14.  Atg17 Functions in Cooperation with Atg1 and Atg13 in Yeast Autophagy 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2005;16(5):2544-2553.
In eukaryotic cells, nutrient starvation induces the bulk degradation of cellular materials; this process is called autophagy. In the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, most of the ATG (autophagy) genes are involved in not only the process of degradative autophagy, but also a biosynthetic process, the cytoplasm to vacuole (Cvt) pathway. In contrast, the ATG17 gene is required specifically in autophagy. To better understand the function of Atg17, we have performed a biochemical characterization of the Atg17 protein. We found that the atg17Δ mutant under starvation condition was largely impaired in autophagosome formation and only rarely contained small autophagosomes, whose size was less than one-half of normal autophagosomes in diameter. Two-hybrid analyses and coimmunoprecipitation experiments demonstrated that Atg17 physically associates with Atg1-Atg13 complex, and this binding was enhanced under starvation conditions. Atg17-Atg1 binding was not detected in atg13Δ mutant cells, suggesting that Atg17 interacts with Atg1 through Atg13. A point mutant of Atg17, Atg17C24R, showed reduced affinity for Atg13, resulting in impaired Atg1 kinase activity and significant defects in autophagy. Taken together, these results indicate that Atg17-Atg13 complex formation plays an important role in normal autophagosome formation via binding to and activating the Atg1 kinase.
PMCID: PMC1087256  PMID: 15743910
15.  Dendropanoxide Induces Autophagy through ERK1/2 Activation in MG-63 Human Osteosarcoma Cells and Autophagy Inhibition Enhances Dendropanoxide-Induced Apoptosis 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(12):e83611.
Anticancer effects of dendropanoxide (DP) newly isolated from leaves and stem of Dendropanax morbifera Leveille were firstly investigated in this study. DP inhibited cell proliferation and induced apoptosis in dose- and time-dependent manner in MG-63 human osteosarcoma cells, which was dependent on the release of cytochrome c to the cytosol and the activation of caspases. Moreover, the DP-treated cells exhibited autophagy, as characterized by the punctuate patterns of microtubule-associated protein 1 light chain 3 (LC3) by confocal microscopy and the appearance of autophagic vacuoles by MDC staining. The expression levels of ATG7, Beclin-1 and LC3-II were also increased by DP treatment. Inhibition of autophagy by 3-methyladenine (3-MA) and wortmannin (Wort) significantly enhanced DP-induced apoptosis. DP treatment also caused a time-dependent increase in protein levels of extracellular signal-regulated kinase 1 and 2 (ERK1/2), and inhibition of ERK1/2 phosphorylation with U0126 resulted in a decreased DP-induced autophagy that was accompanied by an increased apoptosis and a decreased cell viability. These results indicate a cytoprotective function of autophagy against DP-induced apoptosis and suggest that the combination of DP treatment with autophagy inhibition may be a promising strategy for human osteosarcoma control. Taken together, this study demonstrated for the first time that DP could induce autophagy through ERK1/2 activation in human osteosarcoma cells and autophagy inhibition enhanced DP-induced apoptosis.
PMCID: PMC3866153  PMID: 24358301
16.  Loss of Macroautophagy Promotes or Prevents Fibroblast Apoptosis Depending on the Death Stimulus*S◆ 
The Journal of biological chemistry  2007;283(8):4766-4777.
Macroautophagy has been implicated as a mechanism of cell death. However, the relationship between this degradative pathway and cell death is unclear as macroautophagy has been shown recently to protect against apoptosis. To better define the inter-play between these two critical cellular processes, we determined whether inhibition of macroautophagy could have both pro-apoptotic and anti-apoptotic effects in the same cell. Embryonic fibroblasts from mice with a knock-out of the essential macroautophagy gene atg5 were treated with activators of the extrinsic and intrinsic death pathways. Loss of macroautophagy sensitized these cells to caspase-dependent apoptosis from the death receptor ligands Fas and tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α). Atg5−/− mouse embryonic fibroblasts had increased activation of the mitochondrial death pathway in response to Fas/TNF-α in concert with decreased ATP levels. Fas/TNF-α treatment failed to up-regulate macroautophagy, and in fact, decreased activity at late time points. In contrast to their sensitization to Fas/TNF-α, Atg5−/− cells were resistant to death from menadione and UV light. In the absence of macroautophagy, an up-regulation of chaperone-mediated autophagy induced resistance to these stressors. These results demonstrate that inhibition of macroautophagy can promote or prevent apoptosis in the same cell and that the response is governed by the nature of the death stimulus and compensatory changes in other forms of autophagy. Experimental findings that an inhibition of macroautophagy blocks apoptosis do not prove that autophagy mediates cell death as this effect may result from the protective up-regulation of other autophagic pathways such as chaperone-mediated autophagy.
PMCID: PMC2754125  PMID: 18073215
17.  Induction of autophagy by drug-resistant esophageal cancer cells promotes their survival and recovery following treatment with chemotherapeutics 
Autophagy  2011;7(5):509-524.
We investigated the cell-death mechanisms induced in esophageal cancer cells in response to the chemotherapeutic drugs, 5-fluorouracil (5-FU) and cisplatin. Chemosensitive cell lines exhibited apoptosis whereas chemoresistant populations exhibited autophagy and a morphology resembling type II programmed cell death (PCD). Cell populations that respond with autophagy are more resistant and will recover following withdrawal of the chemotherapeutic agents. Specific inhibition of early autophagy induction with siRNA targeted to Beclin 1 and ATG7 significantly enhanced the effect of 5-FU and reduced the recovery of drug-treated cells. Pharmacological inhibitors of autophagy were evaluated for their ability to improve chemotherapeutic effect. The PtdIns 3-kinase inhibitor 3-methyladenine did not enhance the cytotoxicity of 5-FU. Disruption of lysosomal activity with bafilomycin A1 or chloroquine caused extensive vesicular accumulation but did not improve chemotherapeutic effect. These observations suggest that an autophagic response to chemotherapy is a survival mechanism that promotes chemoresistance and recovery and that selective inhibition of autophagy regulators has the potential to improve chemotherapeutic regimes. Currently available indirect inhibitors of autophagy are, however, ineffective at modulating chemosensitivity in these esophageal cancer cell lines.
PMCID: PMC3127212  PMID: 21325880
esophageal cancer; chemoresistance; apoptosis; autophagy; 3-MA; bafilomycin A1; chloroquine
18.  Mammalian Atg2 proteins are essential for autophagosome formation and important for regulation of size and distribution of lipid droplets 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2012;23(5):896-909.
Autophagy is an intracellular degradation process that is mediated by autophagosomes. Mammalian Atg2 proteins Atg2A and Atg2B are identified and characterized as essential for autophagy. They are also present on lipid droplets and are involved in regulation of lipid droplet volume and distribution.
Macroautophagy is an intracellular degradation system by which cytoplasmic materials are enclosed by the autophagosome and delivered to the lysosome. Autophagosome formation is considered to take place on the endoplasmic reticulum and involves functions of autophagy-related (Atg) proteins. Here, we report the identification and characterization of mammalian Atg2 homologues Atg2A and Atg2B. Simultaneous silencing of Atg2A and Atg2B causes a block in autophagic flux and accumulation of unclosed autophagic structures containing most Atg proteins. Atg2A localizes on the autophagic membrane, as well as on the surface of lipid droplets. The Atg2A region containing amino acids 1723–1829, which shows relatively high conservation among species, is required for localization to both the autophagic membrane and lipid droplet and is also essential for autophagy. Depletion of both Atg2A and Atg2B causes clustering of enlarged lipid droplets in an autophagy-independent manner. These data suggest that mammalian Atg2 proteins function both in autophagosome formation and regulation of lipid droplet morphology and dispersion.
PMCID: PMC3290647  PMID: 22219374
19.  Early otic development depends on autophagy for apoptotic cell clearance and neural differentiation 
Cell Death & Disease  2012;3(10):e394-.
Autophagy is a highly regulated program of self-degradation of the cytosolic constituents that has key roles during early development and in adult cell growth and homeostasis. To investigate the role of autophagy in otic neurogenesis, we studied the expression of autophagy genes in early stages of chicken (Gallus gallus) inner ear development and the consequences of inhibiting the autophagic pathway in organotypic cultures of explanted chicken otic vesicles (OVs). Here we show the expression of autophagy-related genes (Atg) Beclin-1 (Atg6), Atg5 and LC3B (Atg8) in the otocyst and the presence of autophagic vesicles by using transmission electron microscopy in the otic neurogenic zone. The inhibition of the transcription of LC3B by using antisense morpholinos and of class III phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase with 3-methyladenine causes an aberrant morphology of the OV with accumulation of apoptotic cells. Moreover, inhibition of autophagy provokes the misregulation of the cell cycle in the otic epithelium, impaired neurogenesis and poor axonal outgrowth. Finally, our results indicate that autophagy provides the energy required for the clearing of neuroepithelial dying cells and suggest that it is required for the migration of otic neuronal precursors. Taken together, our results show for the first time that autophagy is an active and essential process during early inner ear development.
PMCID: PMC3481121  PMID: 23034329
apoptosis; autophagy; 3-MA; otic neurogenesis; IGF-I
20.  Copper compound induces autophagy and apoptosis of glioma cells by reactive oxygen species and jnk activation 
BMC Cancer  2012;12:156.
Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) is the most aggressive of the primary brain tumors, with a grim prognosis despite intensive treatment. In the past decades, progress in research has not significantly increased overall survival rate.
The in vitro antineoplastic effect and mechanism of action of Casiopeina III-ia (Cas III-ia), a copper compound, on rat malignant glioma C6 cells was investigated.
Cas III-ia significantly inhibited cell proliferation, inducing autophagy and apoptosis, which correlated with the formation of autophagic vacuoles, overexpression of LC3, Beclin 1, Atg 7, Bax and Bid proteins. A decrease was detected in the mitochondrial membrane potential and in the activity of caspase 3 and 8, together with the generation of intracellular reactive oxygen species (ROS) and increased activity of c-jun NH2-terminal kinase (JNK). The presence of 3-methyladenine (as selective autophagy inhibitor) increased the antineoplastic effect of Cas III-ia, while Z-VAD-FMK only showed partial protection from the antineoplastic effect induced by Cas III-ia, and ROS antioxidants (N-acetylcysteine) decreased apoptosis, autophagy and JNK activity. Moreover, the JNK –specific inhibitor SP600125 prevented Cas III-ia-induced cell death.
Our data suggest that Cas III-ia induces cell death by autophagy and apoptosis, in part due to the activation of ROS –dependent JNK signaling. These findings support further studies of Cas III-ia as candidate for treatment of human malignant glioma.
PMCID: PMC3404907  PMID: 22540380
Copper compounds; Autophagy; Apoptosis; ROS; NK; Casiopeinas
21.  Dissecting the pathways that destabilize mutant p53 
Cell Cycle  2013;12(7):1022-1029.
One fundamental feature of mutant forms of p53 consists in their accumulation at high levels in tumors. At least in the case of neomorphic p53 mutations, which acquire oncogenic activity, stabilization is a driving force for tumor progression. It is well documented that p53 mutants are resistant to proteasome-dependent degradation compared with wild-type p53, but the exact identity of the pathways that affect mutant p53 stability is still debated. We have recently shown that macroautophagy (autophagy) provides a route for p53 mutant degradation during restriction of glucose. Here we further show that in basal conditions of growth, inhibition of autophagy with chemical inhibitors or by downregulation of the essential autophagic genes ATG1/Ulk1, Beclin-1 or ATG5, results in p53 mutant stabilization. Conversely, overexpression of Beclin-1 or ATG1/Ulk1 leads to p53 mutant depletion. Furthermore, we found that in many cell lines, prolonged inhibition of the proteasome does not stabilize mutant p53 but leads to its autophagic-mediated degradation. Therefore, we conclude that autophagy is a key mechanism for regulating the stability of several p53 mutants. We discuss plausible mechanisms involved in this newly identified degradation pathway as well as the possible role played by autophagy during tumor evolution driven by mutant p53.
PMCID: PMC3646859  PMID: 23466706
p53; mutant; mutations; autophagy; proteasome; ubiquitin tumor; cancer
22.  Mitochondrial Cell Death Suppressors Carried by Human and Murine Cytomegalovirus Confer Resistance to Proteasome Inhibitor-Induced Apoptosis 
Journal of Virology  2005;79(19):12205-12217.
Human cytomegalovirus carries a mitochondria-localized inhibitor of apoptosis (vMIA) that is conserved in primate cytomegaloviruses. We find that inactivating mutations within UL37x1, which encodes vMIA, do not substantially affect replication in TownevarATCC (Towne-BAC), a virus that carries a functional copy of the betaherpesvirus-conserved viral inhibitor of caspase 8 activation, the UL36 gene product. In Towne-BAC infection, vMIA reduces susceptibility of infected cells to intrinsic death induced by proteasome inhibition. vMIA is sufficient to confer resistance to proteasome inhibition when expressed independent of viral infection. Murine cytomegalovirus m38.5, whose position in the viral genome is analogous to UL37x1, exhibits mitochondrial association and functions in much the same manner as vMIA in inhibiting intrinsic cell death. This work suggests a common role for vMIA in rodent and primate cytomegaloviruses, modulating the threshold of virus-infected cells to intrinsic cell death.
PMCID: PMC1211555  PMID: 16160147
23.  The Bcl-2-Beclin 1 interaction in (-)-gossypol-induced autophagy versus apoptosis in prostate cancer cells 
Autophagy  2010;6(8):1201-1203.
Bcl-2 is a key dual regulator of autophagy and apoptosis, but how the level of Bcl-2 influences the cellular decision between autophagy and apoptosis is unclear. The natural BH3-mimetic (-)-gossypol preferentially induces autophagy in androgen-independent (AI) prostate cancer cells that have high levels of Bcl-2 and are resistant to apoptosis, whereas apoptosis is preferentially induced in androgen-dependent or -independent cells with low Bcl-2. (-)-Gossypol induces autophagy via blocking Bcl-2-Beclin 1 interaction at the endoplasmic reticulum (ER), together with downregulating Bcl-2, upregulating Beclin 1 and activating the autophagic pathway. Furthermore, (-)-gossypol-induced autophagy is Beclin 1- and Atg5-dependent. These results provide new insights into the mode of cell death induced by Bcl-2 inhibitors, which could facilitate the rational design of clinical trials by selecting patients who are most likely to benefit from the Bcl-2-targeted molecular therapy.
PMCID: PMC3039723  PMID: 20930561
Bcl-2; (-)-gossypol; apoptosis; autophagy; Beclin 1
Hepatology (Baltimore, Md.)  2010;52(1):266-277.
The function of the lysosomal degradative pathway of autophagy in cellular injury is unclear as findings in nonhepatic cells have implicated autophagy as both a mediator of cell death and as a survival response. Autophagic function is impaired in steatotic and aged hepatocytes, suggesting that in these settings hepatocellular injury may be altered by the decrease in autophagy. To delineate the specific function of autophagy in the hepatocyte injury response, the effects of menadione-induced oxidative stress were examined in the RALA255-10G rat hepatocyte line when macroautophagy was inhibited by an shRNA-mediated knockdown of the autophagy gene atg5. Inhibition of macroautophagy sensitized cells to apoptotic and necrotic death from normally nontoxic concentrations of menadione. Inhibition of macroautophagy led to overactivation of the c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK)/c-Jun signaling pathway that induced cell death. Death occurred from activation of the mitochondrial death pathway with cellular ATP depletion, mitochondrial cytochrome c release and caspase activation. Sensitization to death from menadione occurred despite up regulation of other forms of autophagy in compensation for the loss of macroautophagy. Chaperone-mediated autophagy (CMA) also mediated resistance to menadione as CMA inhibition sensitized cells to death from menadione through a mechanism different from that of a loss of macroautophagy as death occurred in the absence of JNK/c-Jun overactivation or ATP depletion.
Hepatocyte resistance to injury from menadione-induced oxidative stress is mediated by distinct functions of both macroautophagy and CMA, indicating that impaired function of either form of autophagy may promote oxidant-induced liver injury.
PMCID: PMC2924621  PMID: 20578144
apoptosis; necrosis; menadione; mitochondria; c-Jun N-terminal kinase
25.  In vivo imaging and quantitative monitoring of autophagic flux in tobacco BY-2 cells 
Plant Signaling & Behavior  2012;8(1):e22510.
Autophagy has been shown to play essential roles in the growth, development and survival of eukaryotic cells. However, simple methods for quantification and visualization of autophagic flux remain to be developed in living plant cells. Here, we analyzed the autophagic flux in transgenic tobacco BY-2 cell lines expressing fluorescence-tagged NtATG8a as a marker for autophagosome formation. Under sucrose-starved conditions, the number of punctate signals of YFP-NtATG8a increased, and the fluorescence intensity of the cytoplasm and nucleoplasm decreased. Conversely, these changes were not observed in BY-2 cells expressing a C-terminal glycine deletion mutant of the NtATG8a protein (NtATG8aΔG). To monitor the autophagic flux more easily, we generated a transgenic BY-2 cell line expressing NtATG8a fused to a pH-sensitive fluorescent tag, a tandem fusion of the acid-insensitive RFP and the acid-sensitive YFP. In sucrose-rich conditions, both fluorescent signals were detected in the cytoplasm and only weakly in the vacuole. In contrast, under sucrose-starved conditions, the fluorescence intensity of the cytoplasm decreased, and the RFP signal clearly increased in the vacuole, corresponding to the fusion of the autophagosome to the vacuole and translocation of ATG8 from the cytoplasm to the vacuole. Moreover, we introduce a novel simple easy way to monitor the autophagic flux non-invasively by only measuring the ratio of fluorescence of RFP and YFP in the cell suspension using a fluorescent image analyzer without microscopy. The present in vivo quantitative monitoring system for the autophagic flux offers a powerful tool for determining the physiological functions and molecular mechanisms of plant autophagy induced by environmental stimuli.
PMCID: PMC3745557  PMID: 23123450
autophagy; autophagosome; autophagy-related protein 8 (ATG8); in vivo quantitative imaging; tobacco bright yellow-2 (BY-2) suspension-cultured cells

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