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BioMed Research International
Volume 2015 (2015), Article ID 319589, 12 pages
Research Article

A Comprehensive Systems Biological Study of Autophagy-Apoptosis Crosstalk during Endoplasmic Reticulum Stress

Department of Medical Chemistry, Molecular Biology and Pathobiochemistry, Semmelweis University, Tűzoltó Utca 37-47, Budapest 1094, Hungary

Received 3 December 2014; Revised 6 March 2015; Accepted 25 March 2015

Academic Editor: Andrea Orsi

Copyright © 2015 Marianna Holczer et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


One of the most important tasks of a living organism is to maintain its genetic integrity with respect to stress. Endoplasmic reticulum (ER) has a crucial role in sensing cellular homeostasis by controlling metabolism, proteostasis, and several signaling processes. ER stressors can induce autophagy-dependent survival; however excessive level of stress results in apoptotic cell death. Although many molecular components of these networks have already been discovered, the analysis of the dynamical features of the regulatory network of life-or-death decision is still lacking. Our goal was to incorporate both theoretical and molecular biological techniques to explore the autophagy-apoptosis crosstalk under ER stress. Using various levels of different ER stressors we confirmed that the control network always generated an evidently detectable autophagy-dependent threshold for apoptosis activation. We explored the features of this threshold by introducing both autophagy activators and inhibitors, and transient treatment with excessive level of ER stressor was also performed. Our experimental data were also supported by a stochastic approach. Our analysis suggests that even if the switch-like characteristic of apoptosis activation is hardly seen on population level the double negative feedback loop between autophagy and apoptosis inducers introduces bistability in the control network.