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Cell Death Differ. 2008 Aug;15(8):1318-29. doi: 10.1038/cdd.2008.51. Epub 2008 Apr 18.

Role of non-canonical Beclin 1-independent autophagy in cell death induced by resveratrol in human breast cancer cells.

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Laboratory of Biochemistry and Mol Biology, San Paolo University Hospital, Medical School, University of Milan, Milan, Italy.


Resveratrol, a polyphenol found in grapes and other fruit and vegetables, is a powerful chemopreventive and chemotherapeutic molecule potentially of interest for the treatment of breast cancer. The human breast cancer cell line MCF-7, which is devoid of caspase-3 activity, is refractory to apoptotic cell death after incubation with resveratrol. Here we show that resveratrol arrests cell proliferation, triggers death and decreases the number of colonies of cells that are sensitive to caspase-3-dependent apoptosis (MCF-7 casp-3) and also those that are unresponsive to it (MCF-7vc). We demonstrate that resveratrol (i) acts via multiple pathways to trigger cell death, (ii) induces caspase-dependent and caspase-independent cell death in MCF-7 casp-3 cells, (iii) induces only caspase-independent cell death in MCF-7vc cells and (iv) stimulates macroautophagy. Using BECN1 and hVPS34 (human vacuolar protein sorting 34) small interfering RNAs, we demonstrate that resveratrol activates Beclin 1-independent autophagy in both cell lines, whereas cell death via this uncommon form of autophagy occurs only in MCF-7vc cells. We also show that this variant form of autophagic cell death is blocked by the expression of caspase-3, but not by its enzymatic activity. In conclusion, this study reveals that non-canonical autophagy induced by resveratrol can act as a caspase-independent cell death mechanism in breast cancer cells.

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