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PLoS One. 2011 Feb 28;6(2):e17234. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0017234.

2-Deoxy-D-glucose treatment of endothelial cells induces autophagy by reactive oxygen species-mediated activation of the AMP-activated protein kinase.

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Section of Molecular Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, United States of America.


Autophagy is a cellular self-digestion process activated in response to stresses such as energy deprivation and oxidative stress. However, the mechanisms by which energy deprivation and oxidative stress trigger autophagy remain undefined. Here, we report that activation of AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) by mitochondria-derived reactive oxygen species (ROS) is required for autophagy in cultured endothelial cells. AMPK activity, ROS levels, and the markers of autophagy were monitored in confluent bovine aortic endothelial cells (BAEC) treated with the glycolysis blocker 2-deoxy-D-glucose (2-DG). Treatment of BAEC with 2-DG (5 mM) for 24 hours or with low concentrations of H(2)O(2) (100 µM) induced autophagy, including increased conversion of microtubule-associated protein light chain 3 (LC3)-I to LC3-II, accumulation of GFP-tagged LC3 positive intracellular vacuoles, and increased fusion of autophagosomes with lysosomes. 2-DG-treatment also induced AMPK phosphorylation, which was blocked by either co-administration of two potent anti-oxidants (Tempol and N-Acetyl-L-cysteine) or overexpression of superoxide dismutase 1 or catalase in BAEC. Further, 2-DG-induced autophagy in BAEC was blocked by overexpressing catalase or siRNA-mediated knockdown of AMPK. Finally, pretreatment of BAEC with 2-DG increased endothelial cell viability after exposure to hypoxic stress. Thus, AMPK is required for ROS-triggered autophagy in endothelial cells, which increases endothelial cell survival in response to cell stress.

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