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Cell Death Dis. 2010;1:e18. doi: 10.1038/cddis.2009.16.

Caspase-mediated cleavage of Beclin-1 inactivates Beclin-1-induced autophagy and enhances apoptosis by promoting the release of proapoptotic factors from mitochondria.

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VIB, Department for Molecular Biomedical Research, Ghent, Belgium.


Autophagy and apoptosis are two important and interconnected stress-response mechanisms. However, the molecular interplay between these two pathways is not fully understood. To study the fate and function of autophagic proteins at the onset of apoptosis, we used a cellular model system in which autophagy precedes apoptosis. IL-3 depletion of Ba/F3 cells caused caspase (casp)-mediated cleavage of Beclin-1 and PI3KC3, two crucial components of the autophagy-inducing complex. We identified two casp cleavage sites in Beclin-1, TDVD(133) and DQLD(149), cleavage at which yields fragments lacking the autophagy-inducing capacity. Noteworthy, the C-terminal fragment, Beclin-1-C, localized predominantly at the mitochondria and sensitized the cells to apoptosis. Moreover, on isolated mitochondria, recombinant Beclin-1-C was able to induce the release of proapoptotic factors. These findings point to a mechanism by which casp-dependent generation of Beclin-1-C creates an amplifying loop enhancing apoptosis upon growth factor withdrawal.

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