Cytoprotective effect of the elongation factor-2 kinase-mediated autophagy in breast cancer cells subjected to growth factor inhibition

Yan Cheng, Huaijun Li, Xingcong Ren, Tingkuang Niu, William N. Hait, Jinming Yang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

74 Scopus citations


Background: Autophagy is a highly conserved and regulated cellular process employed by living cells to degrade proteins and organelles as a response to metabolic stress. We have previously reported that eukaryotic elongation factor-2 kinase (eEF-2 kinase, also known as Ca2+/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase III) can positively modulate autophagy and negatively regulate protein synthesis. The purpose of the current study was to determine the role of the eEF-2 kinaseregulated autophagy in the response of breast cancer cells to inhibitors of growth factor signaling. Methodology/Principal Findings: We found that nutrient depletion or growth factor inhibitors activated autophagy in human breast cancer cells, and the increased activity of autophagy was associated with a decrease in cellular ATP and an increase in activities of AMP kinase and eEF-2 kinase. Silencing of eEF-2 kinase relieved the inhibition of protein synthesis, led to a greater reduction of cellular ATP, and blunted autophagic response. We further showed that suppression of eEF-2 kinase-regulated autophagy impeded cell growth in serum/nutrient-deprived cultures and handicapped cell survival, and enhanced the efficacy of the growth factor inhibitors such as trastuzumab, gefitinib, and lapatinib. Conclusion/Significance: The results of this study provide new evidence that activation of eEF-2 kinase-mediated autophagy plays a protective role for cancer cells under metabolic stress conditions, and that targeting autophagic survival may represent a novel approach to enhancing the effectiveness of growth factor inhibitors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere9715
JournalPloS one
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2010

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • General


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