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Functions of ULK1 in autophagy and non-autophagy pathways and its implications in human physiology and disease


1 Department of Gastroenterology, the Second Xiangya Hospital, Changsha, 410011, China
2 Research Center of Digestive Disease, Central South University, Changsha, 410011, China

* Address correspondence to: Deliang Liu,

BIOCELL 2020, 44(4), 535-543.


ULK1 (unc-51 like autophagy activating kinase 1), a mammalian serine/threonine kinase, is a key component of autophagy initiation complex and helps to induce all types of autophagy. Canonical autophagy is a process in which, through the interactions of a series of autophagy-related proteins, damaged organelles or misfolded proteins are engulfed by autophagosomes and then merged with lysosomes to be degraded. Thus, canonical autophagy is an important constituent part of the cellular “quality control.” Besides, accumulating evidence indicates that ULK1 exerts autophagy-independent effects in a cell-specific manner. For example, ULK1 facilitates neurite elongation through the regulation of endoplasmic reticulum (ER)–Golgi trafficking in neurons, stimulates phosphopentose pathway to help NADPH (nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate hydrogen) production, and acts as a duplex regulator in type I IFN (type I interferon) induced innate immune response. Considering the importance and diversity of ULK1 in various biological processes, this review aims to present a comprehensive overview of autophagy and non-autophagy related functions of ULK1 in a variety of human physiological, pathological, and disease processes.


Cite This Article

TAN, L., TAN, Y., LIU, D. (2020). Functions of ULK1 in autophagy and non-autophagy pathways and its implications in human physiology and disease. BIOCELL, 44(4), 535–543.


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License , which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
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