Molecular, Cell and Cancer Biology
First Thesis Advisor
Leslie M. Shaw, PhD
Beclin 1, HRS, Endocytosis, Tumor Proliferation, Breast Cancer, Metabolism
BECN1 is a haploinsufficient tumor suppressor gene that is monoallelically deleted or epigenetically silenced in many human cancers. In breast cancer, 40% of tumors exhibit monoallelic deletion of Beclin 1. Additionally, low Beclin 1 mRNA expression is observed in aggressive breast cancer subtypes and reduced expression is an independent predictor of overall patient survival. The role of Beclin 1 in cancer has almost exclusively been attributed to its function in autophagy. However, our lab demonstrated an alternative role for Beclin 1 in the regulation of growth factor receptor signaling that could contribute to cancer. The goal of my thesis project was to investigate the molecular basis by which Beclin 1 regulates breast tumor growth and progression in vivo.
Using in vivo models, I discovered that Beclin 1 promotes endosomal recruitment of hepatocyte growth factor tyrosine kinase substrate (HRS), which is necessary for sorting receptors to intraluminal vesicles for signal silencing and degradation. Beclin 1-dependent recruitment of HRS results in the autophagy-independent regulation of endocytic trafficking and degradation of the epidermal growth factor (EGFR) and transferrin (TFR1) receptors. When Beclin 1 expression is low, endosomal HRS recruitment is reduced and receptor function is sustained to drive tumor proliferation. An autophagy-independent role for Beclin 1 in regulating tumor metabolism was also observed. Collectively, my results demonstrate a novel role for Beclin 1 in impeding tumor growth by coordinating the regulation of growth promoting receptors. These data provide an explanation for how low levels of Beclin 1 facilitate tumor proliferation and contribute to poor cancer outcomes, independently of autophagy.
Matthew-Onabanjo, AN. Novel Insight into the Autophagy-Independent Functions of Beclin 1 in Tumor Growth. (2019). University of Massachusetts Medical School. GSBS Dissertations and Theses. Paper 1038. DOI: 10.13028/8zqt-8797. https://escholarship.umassmed.edu/gsbs_diss/1038
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Available for download on Tuesday, June 01, 2021