A Non-Cell-Autonomous Role of BEC-1/BECN1/Beclin1 in Coordinating Cell-Cycle Progression and Stem Cell Proliferation during Germline Development

Kristina Ames, Dayse S. Da Cunha, Brenda Gonzalez, Marina Konta, Feng Lin, Gabriel Shechter, Lev Starikov, Sara Wong, Hannes E. Bülow, Alicia Meléndez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


The decision of stem cells to proliferate and differentiate is finely controlled. The Caenorhabditis elegans germline provides a tractable system for studying the mechanisms that control stem cell proliferation and homeostasis [1–4]. Autophagy is a conserved cellular recycling process crucial for cellular homeostasis in many different contexts [5], but its function in germline stem cell proliferation remains poorly understood. Here, we describe a function for autophagy in germline stem cell proliferation. We found that autophagy genes such as bec-1/BECN1/Beclin1, atg-16.2/ATG16L, atg-18/WIPI1/2, and atg-7/ATG7 are required for the late larval expansion of germline stem cell progenitors in the C. elegans gonad. We further show that BEC-1/BECN1/Beclin1 acts independently of the GLP-1/Notch or DAF-7/TGF-β pathways but together with the DAF-2/insulin IGF-1 receptor (IIR) signaling pathway to promote germline stem cell proliferation. Similar to DAF-2/IIR, BEC-1/BECN1/Beclin1, ATG-18/WIPI1/2, and ATG-16.2/ATG16L all promote cell-cycle progression and are negatively regulated by the phosphatase and tensin homolog DAF-18/PTEN. However, whereas BEC-1/BECN1/Beclin1 acts through the transcriptional regulator SKN-1/Nrf1, ATG-18/WIPI1/2 and ATG-16.2/ATG16L exert their function through the DAF-16/FOXO transcription factor. In contrast, ATG-7 functions in concert with the DAF-7/TGF-β pathway to promote germline proliferation and is not required for cell-cycle progression. Finally, we report that BEC-1/BECN1/Beclin1 functions non-cell-autonomously to facilitate cell-cycle progression and stem cell proliferation. Our findings demonstrate a novel non-autonomous role for BEC-1/BECN1/Beclin1 in the control of stem cell proliferation and cell-cycle progression, which may have implications for the understanding and development of therapies against malignant cell growth in the future.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)905-913
Number of pages9
JournalCurrent Biology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Mar 20 2017


  • C. elegans
  • atg-16.2
  • atg-7
  • autophagy
  • bec-1
  • cell cycle
  • germline
  • stem cell

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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