Molecular cell

JNK1-mediated phosphorylation of Bcl-2 regulates starvation-induced autophagy.

PMID 18570871


Starvation induces autophagy to preserve cellular homeostasis in virtually all eukaryotic organisms. However, the mechanisms by which starvation induces autophagy are not completely understood. In mammalian cells, the antiapoptotic protein, Bcl-2, binds to Beclin 1 during nonstarvation conditions and inhibits its autophagy function. Here we show that starvation induces phosphorylation of cellular Bcl-2 at residues T69, S70, and S87 of the nonstructured loop; Bcl-2 dissociation from Beclin 1; and autophagy activation. In contrast, viral Bcl-2, which lacks the phosphorylation site-containing nonstructured loop, fails to dissociate from Beclin 1 during starvation. Furthermore, the stress-activated signaling molecule, c-Jun N-terminal protein kinase 1 (JNK1), but not JNK2, mediates starvation-induced Bcl-2 phosphorylation, Bcl-2 dissociation from Beclin 1, and autophagy activation. Together, our findings demonstrate that JNK1-mediated multisite phosphorylation of Bcl-2 stimulates starvation-induced autophagy by disrupting the Bcl-2/Beclin 1 complex. These findings define a mechanism that cells use to regulate autophagic activity in response to nutrient status.