Autophagy is a lysosomal degradation pathway that converts macromolecules into substrates for energy production during nutrient-scarce conditions such as those encountered in tumor microenvironments. Constitutive mitochondrial uptake of endoplasmic reticulum (ER) Ca2+ mediated by inositol triphosphate receptors (IP3Rs) maintains cellular bioenergetics, thus suppressing autophagy. We show that the ER membrane protein Bax inhibitor-1 (BI-1) promotes autophagy in an IP3R-dependent manner. By reducing steady-state levels of ER Ca2+ via IP3Rs, BI-1 influences mitochondrial bioenergetics, reducing oxygen consumption, impacting cellular ATP levels, and stimulating autophagy. Furthermore, BI-1-deficient mice show reduced basal autophagy, and experimentally reducing BI-1 expression impairs tumor xenograft growth in vivo. BI-1's ability to promote autophagy could be dissociated from its known function as a modulator of IRE1 signaling in the context of ER stress. The results reveal BI-1 as a novel autophagy regulator that bridges Ca2+ signaling between ER and mitochondria, reducing cellular oxygen consumption and contributing to cellular resilience in the face of metabolic stress.
- ER stress