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EMBO Rep. 2009 Mar;10(3):285-92. doi: 10.1038/embor.2008.246. Epub 2009 Jan 30.

DAP-kinase-mediated phosphorylation on the BH3 domain of beclin 1 promotes dissociation of beclin 1 from Bcl-XL and induction of autophagy.

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  • 1Department of Molecular Genetics, Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot 76100, Israel.


Autophagy, an evolutionarily conserved process, has functions both in cytoprotective and programmed cell death mechanisms. Beclin 1, an essential autophagic protein, was recently identified as a BH3-domain-only protein that binds to Bcl-2 anti-apoptotic family members. The dissociation of beclin 1 from its Bcl-2 inhibitors is essential for its autophagic activity, and therefore should be tightly controlled. Here, we show that death-associated protein kinase (DAPK) regulates this process. The activated form of DAPK triggers autophagy in a beclin-1-dependent manner. DAPK phosphorylates beclin 1 on Thr 119 located at a crucial position within its BH3 domain, and thus promotes the dissociation of beclin 1 from Bcl-XL and the induction of autophagy. These results reveal a substrate for DAPK that acts as one of the core proteins of the autophagic machinery, and they provide a new phosphorylation-based mechanism that reduces the interaction of beclin 1 with its inhibitors to activate the autophagic machinery.

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