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PLoS One. 2014 Dec 29;9(12):e115087. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0115087. eCollection 2014.

Forkhead box protein O3 transcription factor negatively regulates autophagy in human cancer cells by inhibiting forkhead box protein O1 expression and cytosolic accumulation.

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Program in Cancer and Stem Cell Biology, Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School, Singapore, Singapore; Department of Biochemistry, National University of Singapore, Singapore, Singapore.
Program in Cancer and Stem Cell Biology, Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School, Singapore, Singapore.


FoxO proteins are important regulators in cellular metabolism and are recognized to be nodes in multiple signaling pathways, most notably those involving PI3K/AKT and mTOR. FoxO proteins primarily function as transcription factors, but recent study suggests that cytosolic FoxO1 participates in the regulation of autophagy. In the current study, we find that cytosolic FoxO1 indeed stimulates cellular autophagy in multiple cancer cell lines, and that it regulates not only basal autophagy but also that induced by rapamycin and that in response to nutrient deprivation. These findings illustrate the importance of FoxO1 in cell metabolism regulation independent of its transcription factor function. In contrast to FoxO1, we find the closely related FoxO3a is a negative regulator of autophagy in multiple cancer cell lines, a previously unrecognized function for this protein, different from its function in benign fibroblast and muscle cells. The induction of autophagy by the knockdown of FoxO3a was found not to be mediated through the suppression of mTORC1 signaling; rather, the regulatory role of FoxO3a on autophagy was determined to be through its ability to transcriptionally suppress FoxO1. This complicated interplay of FoxO1 and FoxO3a suggests a complex checks- and balances-relationship between FoxO3a and FoxO1 in regulating autophagy and cell metabolism.

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