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Induction of autophagy and inhibition of tumorigenesis by beclin 1

Nature volume 402, pages 672676 (09 December 1999) | Download Citation

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Abstract

The process of autophagy, or bulk degradation of cellular proteins through an autophagosomic-lysosomal pathway1, is important in normal growth control and may be defective in tumour cells2. However, little is known about the genetic mediators of autophagy in mammalian cells or their role in tumour development. The mammalian gene encoding Beclin 1 (ref. 3), a novel Bcl-2-interacting, coiled-coil protein, has structural similarity to the yeast autophagy gene, apg6/vps30 (refs 4, 5), and is mono-allelically deleted in 40–75% of sporadic human breast cancers and ovarian cancers6. Here we show, using gene-transfer techniques, that beclin 1 promotes autophagy in autophagy-defective yeast with a targeted disruption of agp6/vps30, and in human MCF7 breast carcinoma cells. The autophagy-promoting activity of beclin 1 in MCF7 cells is associated with inhibition of MCF7 cellular proliferation, in vitro clonigenicity and tumorigenesis in nude mice. Furthermore, endogenous Beclin 1 protein expression is frequently low in human breast epithelial carcinoma cell lines and tissue, but is expressed ubiquitously at high levels in normal breast epithelia. Thus, beclin 1 is a mammalian autophagy gene that can inhibit tumorigenesis and is expressed at decreased levels in human breast carcinoma. These findings suggest that decreased expression of autophagy proteins may contribute to the development or progression of breast and other human malignancies.

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Acknowledgements

We thank R. Rothstein and L. Pons for helpful discussions, and J. Kitajewski and R. Dalla-Favera for providing reagents. This work was supported by the NIH, the American Cancer Society, an Irma T. Hirschl Trust Award and an Elaine B. Lesser Award in Ovarian Cancer Research.

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Affiliations

  1. *Department of Medicine and

    • Xiao Huan Liang
    • , Saadiya Jackson
    •  & Beth Levine
  2. ‡Department of Pathology, Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons, New York, New York 10032, USA

    • Kristy Brown
    •  & Hanina Hibshoosh
  3. †Department of Clinical Biochemistry, Cambridge Institute for Medical Research, Addenbrookes Hospital, Cambridge, CB2 2XY, UK

    • Matthew Seaman
  4. §Institute for Clinical Molecular Biology, GSF-National Research Center for Environment and Health, 81377 Munich, Germany

    • Bettina Kempkes

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Correspondence to Beth Levine.

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https://doi.org/10.1038/45257

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