Autosis is a Na+,K+-ATPase-regulated form of cell death triggered by autophagy-inducing peptides, starvation, and hypoxia-ischemia

Yang Liu, Sanae Shoji-Kawata, Rhea M. Sumpter, Yongjie Wei, Vanessa Ginet, Liying Zhang, Bruce Posner, Khoa A. Tran, Douglas R. Green, Ramnik J. Xavier, Stanley Y. Shaw, Peter G H Clarke, Julien Puyal, Beth Levine

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

419 Scopus citations


A long-standing controversy is whether autophagy is a bona fide cause of mammalian cell death. We used a cell-penetrating autophagy- inducing peptide, Tat-Beclin 1, derived from the autophagy protein Beclin 1, to investigate whether high levels of autophagy result in cell death by autophagy. Here we show that Tat-Beclin 1 induces dose-dependent death that is blocked by pharmacological or genetic inhibition of autophagy, but not of apoptosis or necroptosis. This death, termed "autosis," has unique morphological features, including increased autophagosomes/autolysosomes and nuclear convolution at early stages, and focal swelling of the perinuclear space at late stages. We also observed autotic death in cells during stress conditions, including in a subpopulation of nutrient-starved cells in vitro and in hippocampal neurons of neonatal rats subjected to cerebral hypoxiä Cischemia in vivo. A chemical screen of ~5,000 known bioactive compounds revealed that cardiac glycosides, antagonists of Na+,K +-ATPase, inhibit autotic cell death in vitro and in vivo. Furthermore, genetic knockdown of the Na+,K+-ATPase α1 subunit blocks peptide and starvation-induced autosis in vitro. Thus, we have identified a unique form of autophagy-dependent cell death, a Food and Drug Administration-approved class of compounds that inhibit such death, and a crucial role for Na+,K+-ATPase in its regulation. These findings have implications for understanding how cells die during certain stress conditions and how such cell death might be prevented.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)20364-20371
Number of pages8
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number51
StatePublished - Dec 17 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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