Cell death and differentiation

Nuclear ULK1 promotes cell death in response to oxidative stress through PARP1.

PMID 26138443


Reactive oxygen species (ROS) may cause cellular damage and oxidative stress-induced cell death. Autophagy, an evolutionarily conserved intracellular catabolic process, is executed by autophagy (ATG) proteins, including the autophagy initiation kinase Unc-51-like kinase (ULK1)/ATG1. Although autophagy has been implicated to have both cytoprotective and cytotoxic roles in the response to ROS, the role of individual ATG proteins, including ULK1, remains poorly characterized. In this study, we demonstrate that ULK1 sensitizes cells to necrotic cell death induced by hydrogen peroxide (H2O2). Moreover, we demonstrate that ULK1 localizes to the nucleus and regulates the activity of the DNA damage repair protein poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase 1 (PARP1) in a kinase-dependent manner. By enhancing PARP1 activity, ULK1 contributes to ATP depletion and death of H2O2-treated cells. Our study provides the first evidence of an autophagy-independent prodeath role for nuclear ULK1 in response to ROS-induced damage. On the basis of our data, we propose that the subcellular distribution of ULK1 has an important role in deciding whether a cell lives or dies on exposure to adverse environmental or intracellular conditions.