Molecular and Structural Traits of Insulin Receptor Substrate 1/LC3 Nuclear Structures and Their Role in Autophagy Control and Tumor Cell Survival

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Molecular and Cellular Biology


Insulin receptor substrate 1 (IRS-1) is a common cytosolic adaptor molecule involved in signal transduction from insulin and insulin-like growth factor I (IGF-I) receptors. IRS-1 can also be found in the nucleus. We report here a new finding of unique IRS-1 nuclear structures, which we observed initially in glioblastoma biopsy specimens and glioblastoma xenografts. These nuclear structures can be reproduced by the ectopic expression of IRS-1 cDNA cloned in frame with the nuclear localization signal (NLS-IRS-1). In these structures, IRS-1 localizes at the periphery, while the center harbors a key autophagy protein, LC3. These new nuclear structures are highly dynamic, rapidly exchange IRS-1 molecules with the surrounding nucleoplasm, disassemble during mitosis, and require a growth stimulus for their reassembly and maintenance. In tumor cells engineered to express NLS-IRS-1, the IRS-1/LC3 nuclear structures repress autophagy induced by either amino acid starvation or rapamycin treatment. In this process, IRS-1 nuclear structures sequester LC3 inside the nucleus, possibly preventing its cytosolic translocation and the formation of new autophagosomes. This novel mechanism provides a quick and reversible way of inhibiting autophagy, which could counteract autophagy-induced cancer cell death under severe stress, including anticancer therapies.

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