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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2012 Apr 24;109(17):6561-5. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1204429109. Epub 2012 Apr 9.

Role of autophagy in histone deacetylase inhibitor-induced apoptotic and nonapoptotic cell death.

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  • 1Cell Biology Program, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York, NY 10065, USA.


Autophagy is a cellular catabolic pathway by which long-lived proteins and damaged organelles are targeted for degradation. Activation of autophagy enhances cellular tolerance to various stresses. Recent studies indicate that a class of anticancer agents, histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitors, can induce autophagy. One of the HDAC inhibitors, suberoylanilide hydroxamic acid (SAHA), is currently being used for treating cutaneous T-cell lymphoma and under clinical trials for multiple other cancer types, including glioblastoma. Here, we show that SAHA increases the expression of the autophagic factor LC3, and inhibits the nutrient-sensing kinase mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR). The inactivation of mTOR results in the dephosphorylation, and thus activation, of the autophagic protein kinase ULK1, which is essential for autophagy activation during SAHA treatment. Furthermore, we show that the inhibition of autophagy by RNAi in glioblastoma cells results in an increase in SAHA-induced apoptosis. Importantly, when apoptosis is pharmacologically blocked, SAHA-induced nonapoptotic cell death can also be potentiated by autophagy inhibition. Overall, our findings indicate that SAHA activates autophagy via inhibiting mTOR and up-regulating LC3 expression; autophagy functions as a prosurvival mechanism to mitigate SAHA-induced apoptotic and nonapoptotic cell death, suggesting that targeting autophagy might improve the therapeutic effects of SAHA.

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