AMPK-Mediated BECN1 Phosphorylation Promotes Ferroptosis by Directly Blocking System Xc Activity

Xinxin Song, Shan Zhu, Pan Chen, Wen Hou, Qirong Wen, Jiao Liu, Yangchun Xie, Jinbao Liu, Daniel J. Klionsky, Guido Kroemer, Michael T. Lotze, Herbert J. Zeh, Rui Kang, Daolin Tang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

304 Scopus citations


Ferroptosis is a form of regulated cell death triggered by lipid peroxidation after inhibition of the cystine/glutamate antiporter system Xc . However, key regulators of system Xc activity in ferroptosis remain undefined. Here, we show that BECN1 plays a hitherto unsuspected role in promoting ferroptosis through directly blocking system Xc activity via binding to its core component, SLC7A11 (solute carrier family 7 member 11). Knockdown of BECN1 by shRNA inhibits ferroptosis induced by system Xc inhibitors (e.g., erastin, sulfasalazine, and sorafenib), but not other ferroptosis inducers including RSL3, FIN56, and buthionine sulfoximine. Mechanistically, AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK)-mediated phosphorylation of BECN1 at Ser90/93/96 is required for BECN1-SLC7A11 complex formation and lipid peroxidation. Inhibition of PRKAA/AMPKα by siRNA or compound C diminishes erastin-induced BECN1 phosphorylation at S93/96, BECN1-SLC7A11 complex formation, and subsequent ferroptosis. Accordingly, a BECN1 phosphorylation-defective mutant (S90,93,96A) reverses BECN1-induced lipid peroxidation and ferroptosis. Importantly, genetic and pharmacological activation of the BECN1 pathway by overexpression of the protein in tumor cells or by administration of the BECN1 activator peptide Tat-beclin 1, respectively, increases ferroptotic cancer cell death (but not apoptosis and necroptosis) in vitro and in vivo in subcutaneous and orthotopic tumor mouse models. Collectively, our work reveals that BECN1 plays a novel role in lipid peroxidation that could be exploited to improve anticancer therapy by the induction of ferroptosis. Song et al. find that BECN1 promotes ferroptosis by directly blocking system Xc activity via binding to its core component SLC7A11. This pathway is different from the previously identified function of BECN1 as a positive regulator of autophagy via directly activating PtdIns3K activity via binding to its core component PIK3C3.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2388-2399.e5
JournalCurrent Biology
Issue number15
StatePublished - Aug 6 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • AMPK
  • BECN1
  • SLC7A11
  • autophagy
  • autosis
  • cancer therapy
  • ferroptosis
  • lipid peroxidation
  • necroptosis
  • phosphorylation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


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