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Neurobiol Dis. 2009 Feb;33(2):143-8. doi: 10.1016/j.nbd.2008.09.009. Epub 2008 Sep 30.

Spinal cord injury induces upregulation of Beclin 1 and promotes autophagic cell death.

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Department of Orthopedic Surgery, Tohoku University School of Medicine, 1-1 Seiryo-machi, Aoba-ku, Sendai 980-8574, Japan.


Autophagy is a degradation of the cytoplasm and it induces autophagic cell death in several neurodegenerative conditions. Beclin 1, a Bcl-2-interacting protein, is known to be a promoter of autophagy. We investigated the alterations in the Beclin 1 protein expression and the involvement of autophagy and autophagic cell death after spinal cord injury using a spinal cord hemisection model in mice. In the present study, the Beclin 1 expression dramatically increased at the lesion site after hemisection. The increased expression of Beclin 1 started from 4 h, peaked at 3 d, and lasted for at least 21 d after hemisection. The Beclin 1 expression was observed in neurons, astrocytes, and oligodendrocytes. The nuclei in the Beclin 1 expressing cells were round, which should normally be observed in autophagic cell death, and they were not either shrunken or fragmented as is observed in apoptotic nuclei. The results of the present study suggested that autophagy is activated in the injured spinal cord. Furthermore, autophagic cell death is considered to clearly contribute to neural tissue damage after spinal cord injury.

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