Beclin 1, the mammalian orthologue of yeast Atg6, has a central role in autophagy, a process of programmed cell survival, which is increased during periods of cell stress and extinguished during the cell cycle. It interacts with several cofactors (Atg14L, UVRAG, Bif-1, Rubicon, Ambra1, HMGB1, nPIST, VMP1, SLAM, IP(3)R, PINK and survivin) to regulate the lipid kinase Vps-34 protein and promote formation of Beclin 1-Vps34-Vps15 core complexes, thereby inducing autophagy. In contrast, the BH3 domain of Beclin 1 is bound to, and inhibited by Bcl-2 or Bcl-XL. This interaction can be disrupted by phosphorylation of Bcl-2 and Beclin 1, or ubiquitination of Beclin 1. Interestingly, caspase-mediated cleavage of Beclin 1 promotes crosstalk between apoptosis and autophagy. Beclin 1 dysfunction has been implicated in many disorders, including cancer and neurodegeneration. Here, we summarize new findings regarding the organization and function of the Beclin 1 network in cellular homeostasis, focusing on the cross-regulation between apoptosis and autophagy.
© 2011 Macmillan Publishers Limited