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      Beclin 1 over- and underexpression in colorectal cancer: distinct patterns relate to prognosis and tumour hypoxia

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          Autophagy enables cells to recycle long-lived proteins or damaged organelles. Beclin 1, the mammalian orthologue of the yeast Apg6 /Vps30 gene, functions as a scaffold for the formation of autophagosomes.

          Materials and method:

          The immunohistochemical patterns of Beclin 1 expression and their prognostic relevance were studied in formalin-fixed tissues from 155 patients with colorectal adenocarcinoma treated with surgery alone.


          Using the weak homogeneous expression of Beclin 1 in normal colonic tissues as a basis for assessing tumours, the following grouping/staining patterns were recognised in colorectal carcinomas: a normal-like pattern in 62 of 155 (40%) cases, an underexpression pattern in 24 of 155 (15.5%) cases, extensive overexpression of Beclin 1 in 33 of 155 (21.3%) tumours and limited overexpression of the protein in 36 of 155 (23.2%) tumours. Extensive overexpression of Beclin 1 was significantly linked with overexpression of HIF1 α and LDH5, as well as with high histological grade, vascular invasion and nodal involvement. Furthermore, patients with extensive over- or underexpression of Beclin 1 had a significantly poorer overall survival compared with the other two groups ( P<0.0001). Beclin 1 had an independent prognostic relevance in multivariate analysis.


          Beclin 1 has an important role in growth and metastasis of colorectal cancer. Loss of Beclin 1 expression (allelic loss or microRNA regulatory activity, as suggested in the literature) defines poor prognosis presumably by promoting anti-apoptotic pathways, while overexpression of the protein, being linked with tumour hypoxia and acidity, also defines subgroups of tumours with aggressive clinical behaviour.

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          Most cited references 19

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          Beclin-phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase complex functions at the trans-Golgi network.

           Y Kabeya,  Y Ohsumi,  A Kihara (2001)
          Autophagy is an intracellular bulk protein degradation system. Beclin is known to be involved in this process; however, its role is unclear. In this study, we showed that Beclin was co-immunoprecipitated with phosphatidylinositol (PtdIns) 3-kinase, which is also required for autophagy, suggesting that Beclin is a component of the PtdIns 3-kinase complex. Quantitative analyses using a cross-linker showed that all Beclin forms a complex with PtdIns 3-kinase, whereas approximately 50% of PtdIns 3-kinase remains free from Beclin. Indirect immunofluorescence microscopy demonstrated that the majority of Beclin and PtdIns 3-kinase localize to the trans-Golgi network (TGN). Some PtdIns 3-kinase is also distributed in the late endosome. These results suggest that Beclin and PtdIns 3-kinase control autophagy as a complex at the TGN.
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            Cloning and genomic organization of beclin 1, a candidate tumor suppressor gene on chromosome 17q21.

            The beclin 1 (BECN1) gene encodes a 60-kDa coiled-coil protein that interacts with the prototypic apoptosis inhibitor Bcl-2. Previous studies indicate that beclin 1 maps to a region approximately 150 kb centromeric to BRCA1 on chromosome 17q21 that is commonly deleted in breast, ovarian, and prostate cancer. The complete cDNA sequence of beclin 1 encodes a 2098-bp transcript, with a 120-bp 5' UTR, 1353-bp coding region, and 625-bp 3' UTR. Hybridization screening of a human genomic PAC library identified PAC 452O8, which contains the complete beclin 1 gene. Determination of the exon-intron structure of beclin 1 reveals 12 exons, ranging from 61 to 794 bp, which extend over 12 kb of the human genome. FISH analysis of human breast carcinoma cell lines using PAC 452O8 as probe identified allelic beclin 1 deletions in 9 of 22 cell lines. Sequencing of genomic DNA from 10 of these cell lines revealed no mutations in coding regions or splice junctions. Additionally, Northern blot analysis of 11 cell lines did not identify any abnormalities in beclin 1 transcripts. These results indicate that human breast carcinoma cell lines frequently contain allelic deletions of beclin 1, but not beclin 1 coding mutations. Copyright 1999 Academic Press.
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              Physiological functions of Atg6/Beclin 1: a unique autophagy-related protein.

              The most striking morphological feature of eukaryotic cells is the presence of various membrane-enclosed compartments. These compartments, including organelles and transient transport intermediates, are not static. Rather, dynamic exchange of proteins and membrane is needed to maintain cellular homeostasis. One of the most dramatic examples of membrane mobilization is seen during the process of macroautophagy. Macroautophagy is the primary cellular pathway for degradation of long-lived proteins and organelles. In response to environmental cues, such as starvation or other types of stress, the cell produces a unique membrane structure, the phagophore. The phagophore sequesters cytoplasm as it forms a double-membrane cytosolic vesicle, an autophagosome. Upon completion, the autophagosome fuses with a lysosome or a vacuole in yeast, which delivers hydrolases that break down the inner autophagosome membrane along with its cargo, and the resulting macromolecules are released back into the cytosol for reuse. Autophagy is therefore a recycling process, allowing cells to survive periods of nutrient limitation; however, it has a wider physiological role, participating in development and aging, and also in protection against pathogen invasion, cancer and certain neurodegenerative diseases. In many cases, the role of autophagy is identified through studies of an autophagy-related protein, Atg6/Beclin 1. This protein is part of a lipid kinase complex, and recent studies suggest that it plays a central role in coordinating the cytoprotective function of autophagy and in opposing the cellular death process of apoptosis. Here, we summarize our current knowledge of Atg6/Beclin 1 in different model organisms and its unique function in the cell.

                Author and article information

                Br J Cancer
                British Journal of Cancer
                Nature Publishing Group
                12 October 2010
                14 September 2010
                : 103
                : 8
                : 1209-1214
                [1 ]Department of Radiotherapy/Oncology, Democritus University of Thrace and University General Hospital of Alexandroupolis , Alexandroupolis, 68100, Greece
                [2 ]Department of Pathology, Democritus University of Thrace and University General Hospital of Alexandroupolis , Alexandroupolis, 68100, Greece
                [3 ]Department of Surgery, Democritus University of Thrace and University General Hospital of Alexandroupolis , Alexandroupolis, 68100, Greece
                [4 ]Cancer Research UK, Molecular Oncology Laboratories, Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine and Nuffield Department of Clinical Laboratory Science, University of Oxford, John Radcliffe Hospital , Oxford, OX3 7LJ, UK
                Author notes
                Copyright © 2010 Cancer Research UK
                Molecular Diagnostics

                Oncology & Radiotherapy

                colon cancer, beclin 1, hif1α, autophagy, ldh


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