Insulin withdrawal-induced cell death in adult hippocampal neural stem cells as a model of autophagic cell death

Seung Hoon Baek, Eun Kyoung Kim, John L. Goudreau, Keith J. Lookingland, Seong Who Kim, Seong Woon Yu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The term "autophagic cell death" was coined to describe a form of cell death associated with the massive formation of autophagic vacuoles without signs of apoptosis. However, questions about the actual role of autophagy and its molecular basis in cell death remain to be elucidated. We recently reported that adult hippocampal neural stem (HCN) cells undergo autophagic cell death following insulin withdrawal. Insulin-deprived HCN cells exhibit morphological and biochemical markers of autophagy, including accumulation of Beclin 1 and the type II form of microtubule-associated protein 1 light chain 3 (LC3) without evidence of apoptosis. Suppression of autophagy by knockdown of Atg7 reduces cell death, whereas promotion of autophagy with rapamycin augments cell death in insulin-deficient HCN cells. These data reveal a causative role of autophagy in insulin withdrawal-induced HCN cell death. HCN cells have intact apoptotic capability despite the lack of apoptosis following insulin withdrawal. Our study demonstrates that autophagy is the default cell death mechanism in insulin-deficient HCN cells, and provides a genuine model of autophagic cell death in apoptosis-intact cells. Novel insight into molecular mechanisms of this underappreciated form of programmed cell death should facilitate the development of therapeutic methods to cope with human diseases caused by dysregulated cell death.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)277-279
Number of pages3
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 16 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Apoptosis
  • Autophagy
  • Cell death
  • Hippocampal neural stem cells
  • Insulin withdrawal

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cell Biology
  • Molecular Biology


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