Send to

Choose Destination
PLoS One. 2010 Mar 16;5(3):e9715. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0009715.

Cytoprotective effect of the elongation factor-2 kinase-mediated autophagy in breast cancer cells subjected to growth factor inhibition.

Author information

Department of Pharmacology and The Penn State Cancer Institute, The Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine, and Milton S Hershey Medical Center, Hershey, Pennsylvania, United States of America.



Autophagy is a highly conserved and regulated cellular process employed by living cells to degrade proteins and organelles as a response to metabolic stress. We have previously reported that eukaryotic elongation factor-2 kinase (eEF-2 kinase, also known as Ca(2+)/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase III) can positively modulate autophagy and negatively regulate protein synthesis. The purpose of the current study was to determine the role of the eEF-2 kinase-regulated autophagy in the response of breast cancer cells to inhibitors of growth factor signaling.


We found that nutrient depletion or growth factor inhibitors activated autophagy in human breast cancer cells, and the increased activity of autophagy was associated with a decrease in cellular ATP and an increase in activities of AMP kinase and eEF-2 kinase. Silencing of eEF-2 kinase relieved the inhibition of protein synthesis, led to a greater reduction of cellular ATP, and blunted autophagic response. We further showed that suppression of eEF-2 kinase-regulated autophagy impeded cell growth in serum/nutrient-deprived cultures and handicapped cell survival, and enhanced the efficacy of the growth factor inhibitors such as trastuzumab, gefitinib, and lapatinib.


The results of this study provide new evidence that activation of eEF-2 kinase-mediated autophagy plays a protective role for cancer cells under metabolic stress conditions, and that targeting autophagic survival may represent a novel approach to enhancing the effectiveness of growth factor inhibitors.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Public Library of Science Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center