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Autophagy

AMPK regulates autophagy by phosphorylating BECN1 at threonine 388.


PMID 27304906

Abstract

Macroautophagy/autophagy is a conserved catabolic process that recycles cytoplasmic material during low energy conditions. BECN1/Beclin1 (Beclin 1, autophagy related) is an essential protein for function of the class 3 phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PtdIns3K) complexes that play a key role in autophagy nucleation and elongation. Here, we show that AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) regulates autophagy by phosphorylating BECN1 at Thr388. Phosphorylation of BECN1 is required for autophagy upon glucose withdrawal. BECN1(T388A), a phosphorylation defective mutant, suppresses autophagy through decreasing the interaction between PIK3C3 (phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase catalytic subunit type 3) and ATG14 (autophagy-related 14). The BECN1(T388A) mutant has a higher affinity for BCL2 than its wild-type counterpart; the mutant is more prone to dimer formation. Conversely, a BECN1 phosphorylation mimic mutant, T388D, has stronger binding to PIK3C3 and ATG14, and promotes higher autophagy activity than the wild-type control. These findings uncover a novel mechanism of autophagy regulation.