Stimulation of autophagy by the p53 target gene Sestrin2

Cell Cycle. 2009 May 15;8(10):1571-6. doi: 10.4161/cc.8.10.8498. Epub 2009 May 20.


The oncosuppressor protein p53 regulates autophagy in a dual fashion. The pool of cytoplasmic p53 protein represses autophagy in a transcription-independent fashion, while the pool of nuclear p53 stimulates autophagy through the transactivation of specific genes. Here we report the discovery that Sestrin2, a novel p53 target gene, is involved in the induction of autophagy. Depletion of Sestrin2 by RNA interference reduced the level of autophagy in a panel of p53-sufficient human cancer cell lines responding to distinct autophagy inducers. In quantitative terms, Sestrin2 depletion was as efficient in preventing autophagy induction as was the depletion of Dram, another p53 target gene. Knockout of either Sestrin2 or Dram reduced autophagy elicited by nutrient depletion, rapamycin, lithium or thapsigargin. Moreover, autophagy induction by nutrient depletion or pharmacological stimuli led to an increase in Sestrin2 expression levels in p53-proficient cells. In strict contrast, the depletion of Sestrin2 or Dram failed to affect autophagy in p53-deficient cells and did not modulate the inhibition of baseline autophagy by a cytoplasmic p53 mutant that was reintroduced into p53-deficient cells. We conclude that Sestrin2 acts as a positive regulator of autophagy in p53-proficient cells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Autophagy*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Humans
  • Nuclear Proteins / metabolism*
  • RNA, Small Interfering / genetics
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53 / genetics
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53 / metabolism*


  • Nuclear Proteins
  • RNA, Small Interfering
  • SESN2 protein, human
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53