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Oncogene. 2008 Dec;27 Suppl 1:S137-48. doi: 10.1038/onc.2009.51.

The autophagy effector Beclin 1: a novel BH3-only protein.

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Department of Chemistry, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, North Dakota State University, Fargo, ND, USA.


BH3 domains were originally discovered in the context of apoptosis regulators and they mediate binding of proapoptotic Bcl-2 family members to antiapoptotic Bcl-2 family members. Yet, recent studies indicate that BH3 domains do not function uniquely in apoptosis regulation; they also function in the regulation of another critical pathway involved in cellular and tissue homeostasis called autophagy. Antiapoptotic Bcl-2 homologs downregulate autophagy through interactions with the essential autophagy effector and haploinsufficient tumor suppressor, Beclin 1. Beclin 1 contains a BH3 domain, similar to that of Bcl-2 proteins, which is necessary and sufficient for binding to antiapoptotic Bcl-2 homologs and required for Bcl-2-mediated inhibition of autophagy. This review will summarize the evidence that the BH3 domain of Beclin 1 serves as a key structural motif that enables Bcl-2 to function not only as an antiapoptotic protein, but also as an antiautophagy protein.

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