Dissociation of Bcl-2–Beclin1 Complex by Activated AMPK Enhances Cardiac Autophagy and Protects Against Cardiomyocyte Apoptosis in Diabetes

  1. Zhonglin Xie
  1. Section of Molecular Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
  1. Corresponding author: Zhonglin Xie, zxie{at}, or Ming-Hui Zou, ming-hui-zou{at}


Diabetic cardiomyopathy is associated with suppression of cardiac autophagy, and activation of AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) restores cardiac autophagy and prevents cardiomyopathy in diabetic mice, albeit by an unknown mechanism. We hypothesized that AMPK-induced autophagy ameliorates diabetic cardiomyopathy by inhibiting cardiomyocyte apoptosis and examined the effects of AMPK on the interaction between Beclin1 and Bcl-2, a switch between autophagy and apoptosis, in diabetic mice and high glucose–treated H9c2 cardiac myoblast cells. Exposure of H9c2 cells to high glucose reduced AMPK activity, inhibited Jun NH2-terminal kinase 1 (JNK1)–B-cell lymphoma 2 (Bcl-2) signaling, and promoted Beclin1 binding to Bcl-2. Conversely, activation of AMPK by metformin stimulated JNK1–Bcl-2 signaling and disrupted the Beclin1–Bcl-2 complex. Activation of AMPK, which normalized cardiac autophagy, attenuated high glucose–induced apoptosis in cultured H9c2 cells. This effect was attenuated by inhibition of autophagy. Finally, chronic administration of metformin in diabetic mice restored cardiac autophagy by activating JNK1–Bcl-2 pathways and dissociating Beclin1 and Bcl-2. The induction of autophagy protected against cardiac apoptosis and improved cardiac structure and function in diabetic mice. We concluded that dissociation of Bcl-2 from Beclin1 may be an important mechanism for preventing diabetic cardiomyopathy via AMPK activation that restores autophagy and protects against cardiac apoptosis.

  • Received April 24, 2012.
  • Accepted September 30, 2012.

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  1. Diabetes vol. 62 no. 4 1270-1281
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