• A Corrigendum to this article was published on 06 November 2013

Abstract

Exercise has beneficial effects on human health, including protection against metabolic disorders such as diabetes1. However, the cellular mechanisms underlying these effects are incompletely understood. The lysosomal degradation pathway, autophagy, is an intracellular recycling system that functions during basal conditions in organelle and protein quality control2. During stress, increased levels of autophagy permit cells to adapt to changing nutritional and energy demands through protein catabolism3. Moreover, in animal models, autophagy protects against diseases such as cancer, neurodegenerative disorders, infections, inflammatory diseases, ageing and insulin resistance4,5,6. Here we show that acute exercise induces autophagy in skeletal and cardiac muscle of fed mice. To investigate the role of exercise-mediated autophagy in vivo, we generated mutant mice that show normal levels of basal autophagy but are deficient in stimulus (exercise- or starvation)-induced autophagy. These mice (termed BCL2 AAA mice) contain knock-in mutations in BCL2 phosphorylation sites (Thr69Ala, Ser70Ala and Ser84Ala) that prevent stimulus-induced disruption of the BCL2–beclin-1 complex and autophagy activation. BCL2 AAA mice show decreased endurance and altered glucose metabolism during acute exercise, as well as impaired chronic exercise-mediated protection against high-fat-diet-induced glucose intolerance. Thus, exercise induces autophagy, BCL2 is a crucial regulator of exercise- (and starvation)-induced autophagy in vivo, and autophagy induction may contribute to the beneficial metabolic effects of exercise.

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Acknowledgements

We thank the UT Southwestern Mouse Metabolic Phenotyping Core and E. Berglund for assistance with metabolic measurements, J. Shelton for assistance with muscle stains, N. Mizushima for critical reagents, and B. D. Levine for expert advice. This work was supported by National Institutes of Health grants RO1 CA109618 (B.L.), ROI HL080244 (J.A.H.), ROI HL090842 (J.A.H.), ROI AI084887 (H.W.V.), RCI DK086629 (P.E.S.), RO1 CA112023 (P.E.S.) and 1PO1 DK0887761 (P.E.S.).

Author information

Author notes

    • Congcong He
    •  & Michael C. Bassik

    These authors contributed equally to this work.

    • Michael C. Bassik

    Present address: University of California at San Francisco, San Francisco, California 94158, USA .

    • Stanley Korsmeyer

    Deceased.

Affiliations

  1. Center for Autophagy Research, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, 5323 Harry Hines Boulevard, Dallas, Texas 75390, USA

    • Congcong He
    • , Yongjie Wei
    • , Zhongju Zou
    • , Zhenyi An
    • , Qihua Sun
    •  & Beth Levine
  2. Department of Internal Medicine, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, 5323 Harry Hines Boulevard, Dallas, Texas 75390, USA

    • Congcong He
    • , Kai Sun
    • , Yongjie Wei
    • , Zhongju Zou
    • , Zhenyi An
    • , Qihua Sun
    • , Herman I. May
    • , Joseph A. Hill
    • , Philipp E. Scherer
    •  & Beth Levine
  3. Howard Hughes Medical Institute, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, 5323 Harry Hines Boulevard, Dallas, Texas 75390, USA

    • Congcong He
    • , Yongjie Wei
    • , Zhongju Zou
    •  & Beth Levine
  4. Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Massachusetts 02115, USA

    • Michael C. Bassik
    • , Jill Fisher
    •  & Stanley Korsmeyer
  5. Department of Molecular Biology, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, 5323 Harry Hines Boulevard, Dallas, Texas 75390, USA

    • Viviana Moresi
    •  & Rhonda Bassel-Duby
  6. Touchstone Diabetes Center, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, 5323 Harry Hines Boulevard, Dallas, Texas 75390, USA

    • Kai Sun
    •  & Philipp E. Scherer
  7. Department of Pathology and Immunology, Washington University School of Medicine, St Louis, Missouri 6110, USA

    • Joy Loh
    •  & Herbert W. Virgin
  8. Department of Clinical Sciences, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, 5323 Harry Hines Boulevard, Dallas, Texas 75390, USA

    • Milton Packer
    •  & Guanghua Xiao
  9. Department of Cell Biology, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, 5323 Harry Hines Boulevard, Dallas, Texas 75390, USA

    • Christopher Gilpin
  10. Department of Microbiology, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, 5323 Harry Hines Boulevard, Dallas, Texas 75390, USA

    • Beth Levine

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Contributions

C.H., M.C.B., V.M., K.S., S.K., M.P., J.A.H., H.W.V., R.B.-D., P.E.S. and B.L. designed the experiments. C.H., M.C.B., V.M., K.S., Y.W., Z.Z., Z.A., J.L., J.F., Q.S., H.I.M. and C.G. performed the experiments. G.X. performed statistical analyses. C.H. and B.L. wrote the manuscript.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Beth Levine.

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DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/nature10758

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