Autophagy-dependent senescence in response to DNA damage and chronic apoptotic stress

Kamini Singh, Shigemi Matsuyama, Judith A. Drazba, Alexandru Almasan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

73 Scopus citations


Autophagy regulates cell survival and cell death upon various cellular stresses, yet the molecular signaling events involved are not well defined. Here, we established the function of a proteolytic Cyclin E fragment (p18-CycE) in DNA damage-induced autophagy, apoptosis, and senescence. p18-CycE was identified in hematopoietic cells undergoing DNA damage-induced apoptosis. In epithelial cells exposed to DNA damage, chronic but not transient expression of p18-CycE leads to higher turnover of LC3 I/II and increased emergence of autophagosomes and autolysosomes. Levels of p18-CycE, which was generated by proteolytic cleavage of endogenous Cyclin E, were greatly increased by chloroquine and correlated with LC 3II conversion. Preventing p18-CycE genesis blocked conversion of LC3 I to LC3 II. Upon DNA damage, cytoplasmic ataxia-telangiectasia-mutated (ATM) was phosphorylated in p18-CycE-expressing cells resulting in sustained activation of the adenosine-mono-phosphate- dependent kinase (AMPK). These lead to sustained activation of mammalian autophagy-initiating kinase ULK1, which was abrogated upon inhibiting ATM and AMPK phosphorylation. Moreover, p18-CycE was degraded via autophagy followed by induction of senescence. Both autophagy and senescence were prevented by inhibiting autophagy, which leads to increased apoptosis in p18-CycE-expressing cells by stabilizing p18-CycE expression. Senescence was further associated with cytoplasmic co-localization and degradation of p18-CycE and Ku70. In brief, chronic p18-CycE expression-induced autophagy leads to clearance of p18-CycE following DNA damage and induction of senescence. Autophagy inhibition stabilized the cytoplasmic p18-CycE-Ku70 complex leading to apoptosis. Thus, our findings define how chronic apoptotic stress and DNA damage initiate autophagy and regulate cell survival through senescence and/or apoptosis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)236-251
Number of pages16
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • AMPK
  • Autophagy
  • DNA damage
  • P18-Cyclin E
  • Senescence
  • ULK1

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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