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Genes Dev. 2012 May 15;26(10):1041-54. doi: 10.1101/gad.184325.111.

Endoplasmic reticulum protein BI-1 regulates Ca²⁺-mediated bioenergetics to promote autophagy.

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  • 1Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute, La Jolla, California 92037, USA.


Autophagy is a lysosomal degradation pathway that converts macromolecules into substrates for energy production during nutrient-scarce conditions such as those encountered in tumor microenvironments. Constitutive mitochondrial uptake of endoplasmic reticulum (ER) Ca²⁺ mediated by inositol triphosphate receptors (IP₃Rs) maintains cellular bioenergetics, thus suppressing autophagy. We show that the ER membrane protein Bax inhibitor-1 (BI-1) promotes autophagy in an IP₃R-dependent manner. By reducing steady-state levels of ER Ca²⁺ via IP₃Rs, BI-1 influences mitochondrial bioenergetics, reducing oxygen consumption, impacting cellular ATP levels, and stimulating autophagy. Furthermore, BI-1-deficient mice show reduced basal autophagy, and experimentally reducing BI-1 expression impairs tumor xenograft growth in vivo. BI-1's ability to promote autophagy could be dissociated from its known function as a modulator of IRE1 signaling in the context of ER stress. The results reveal BI-1 as a novel autophagy regulator that bridges Ca²⁺ signaling between ER and mitochondria, reducing cellular oxygen consumption and contributing to cellular resilience in the face of metabolic stress.

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