Atg1 allows second-signaled autophagic cell death in Dictyostelium

Autophagy. 2011 May;7(5):501-8. doi: 10.4161/auto.7.5.14957. Epub 2011 May 1.


We investigated the role of Atg1 in autophagic cell death (ACD) in a Dictyostelium monolayer model. The model is especially propitious, not only because of genetic tractability and absence of apoptosis machinery, but also because induction of ACD requires two successive exogenous signals, first the combination of starvation and cAMP, second the differentiation factor DIF-1. This enables one to analyze separately first-signal-induced autophagy and subsequent second-signal-induced ACD. We used mutants of atg1, a gene that plays an essential role in the initiation of autophagy. Upon starvation/cAMP, in contrast to parental cells, atg1 mutant cells showed irreversible lesions, clearly establishing a protective role for Atg1. Upon subsequent exposure to DIF-1 or to more ACD-specific second signals, starved parental cells progressed to ACD, but starved atg1 mutant cells did not, showing that Atg1 was required for ACD. Thus, in the same cells Atg1 was required in two apparently opposite ways, upon first-signaling for cell survival and upon second-signaling for ACD. Our findings strongly suggest that Atg1, thus presumably autophagy, protects the cells from starvation-induced cell death, allowing subsequent induction of ACD by the second signal. ACD is therefore not only "with" autophagy (since it showed signs of autophagy throughout), but is also "allowed by" autophagy. This does not exclude a role for autophagy also after second signaling. These results may account for discrepancies reported in the literature, encourage searches for second signals in different developmental models of ACD, and incite caution in autophagy-related therapeutic attempts.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Autophagy / drug effects
  • Autophagy / genetics*
  • Carbonyl Cyanide m-Chlorophenyl Hydrazone / analogs & derivatives
  • Carbonyl Cyanide m-Chlorophenyl Hydrazone / pharmacology
  • Dictyostelium / drug effects
  • Dictyostelium / genetics*
  • Dictyostelium / physiology*
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Hexanones / pharmacology
  • Ionophores / pharmacology
  • Models, Biological
  • Organisms, Genetically Modified
  • Protein Kinases / genetics
  • Protein Kinases / physiology*
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects
  • Signal Transduction / genetics
  • Thapsigargin / pharmacology


  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Hexanones
  • Ionophores
  • 1-((3,5-dichloro)-2,6-dihydroxy-4-methoxyphenyl)-1-hexanone
  • Carbonyl Cyanide m-Chlorophenyl Hydrazone
  • Thapsigargin
  • carbonylcyanide 4-chlorophenylhydrazone
  • Protein Kinases