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1.  Myc-Driven Overgrowth Requires Unfolded Protein Response-Mediated Induction of Autophagy and Antioxidant Responses in Drosophila melanogaster 
PLoS Genetics  2013;9(8):e1003664.
Autophagy, a lysosomal self-degradation and recycling pathway, plays dual roles in tumorigenesis. Autophagy deficiency predisposes to cancer, at least in part, through accumulation of the selective autophagy cargo p62, leading to activation of antioxidant responses and tumor formation. While cell growth and autophagy are inversely regulated in most cells, elevated levels of autophagy are observed in many established tumors, presumably mediating survival of cancer cells. Still, the relationship of autophagy and oncogenic signaling is poorly characterized. Here we show that the evolutionarily conserved transcription factor Myc (dm), a proto-oncogene involved in cell growth and proliferation, is also a physiological regulator of autophagy in Drosophila melanogaster. Loss of Myc activity in null mutants or in somatic clones of cells inhibits autophagy. Forced expression of Myc results in cell-autonomous increases in cell growth, autophagy induction, and p62 (Ref2P)-mediated activation of Nrf2 (cnc), a transcription factor promoting antioxidant responses. Mechanistically, Myc overexpression increases unfolded protein response (UPR), which leads to PERK-dependent autophagy induction and may be responsible for p62 accumulation. Genetic or pharmacological inhibition of UPR, autophagy or p62/Nrf2 signaling prevents Myc-induced overgrowth, while these pathways are dispensable for proper growth of control cells. In addition, we show that the autophagy and antioxidant pathways are required in parallel for excess cell growth driven by Myc. Deregulated expression of Myc drives tumor progression in most human cancers, and UPR and autophagy have been implicated in the survival of Myc-dependent cancer cells. Our data obtained in a complete animal show that UPR, autophagy and p62/Nrf2 signaling are required for Myc-dependent cell growth. These novel results give additional support for finding future approaches to specifically inhibit the growth of cancer cells addicted to oncogenic Myc.
Author Summary
The evolutionarily conserved transcription factor Myc promotes protein synthesis, cell growth and cancer progression through incompletely understood mechanisms. In this work, we show that forced expression of Myc induces the accumulation of abnormal proteins leading to unfolded protein responses (UPR), presumably by overloading the protein synthetic capacity of cells in Drosophila. UPR then results in autophagy-mediated breakdown and recycling of cytoplasmic material, and at the same time, to activation of antioxidant responses in these cells. Blocking the UPR stress signaling, autophagy and antioxidant pathways genetically, or by feeding larvae an autophagy-inhibiting drug, prevents overgrowth of Myc-expressing cells, but these treatments do not affect the growth of control cells in the same tissues. These results, together with recent reports in mammalian cancer models, suggest that drugs targeting UPR, autophagy and antioxidant responses may specifically inhibit cancer cell proliferation driven by oncogenic Myc.
PMCID: PMC3738540  PMID: 23950728
2.  HIV-1 Inhibits Autophagy in Bystander Macrophage/Monocytic Cells through Src-Akt and STAT3 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(7):e11733.
Autophagy is a homeostatic mechanism of lysosomal degradation. Defective autophagy has been linked to various disorders such as impaired control of pathogens and neurodegeneration. Autophagy is regulated by a complex array of signaling pathways that act upstream of autophagy proteins. Little is known about the role of altered regulatory signaling in disorders associated with defective autophagy. In particular, it is not known if pathogens inhibit autophagy by modulation of upstream regulatory pathways. Cells infected with HIV-1 blocked rapamycin-induced autophagy and CD40-induced autophagic killing of Toxoplasma gondii in bystander (non-HIV-1 infected) macrophage/monocytic cells. Blockade of autophagy was dependent on Src-Akt and STAT3 triggered by HIV-1 Tat and IL-10. Neutralization of the upstream receptors VEGFR, β-integrin or CXCR4, as well as of HIV-1 Tat or IL-10 restored autophagy in macrophage/monocytic cells exposed to HIV-1-infected cells. Defective autophagic killing of T. gondii was detected in monocyte-derived macrophages from a subset of HIV-1+ patients. This defect was also reverted by neutralization of Tat or IL-10. These studies revealed that a pathogen can impair autophagy in non-infected cells by activating counter-regulatory pathways. The fact that pharmacologic manipulation of cell signaling restored autophagy in cells exposed to HIV-1-infected cells raises the possibility of therapeutic manipulation of cell signaling to restore autophagy in HIV-1 infection.
PMCID: PMC2908694  PMID: 20661303
3.  The Double-edged Sword of Autophagy Modulation in Cancer 
Macroautophagy (autophagy) is a lysosomal degradation pathway for the breakdown of intracellular proteins and organelles. Although, constitutive autophagy is a homeostatic mechanism for intracellular recycling and metabolic regulation, autophagy is also stress responsive where it is important for the removal of damaged proteins and organelles. Autophagy thereby confers stress tolerance, limits damage and sustains viability under adverse conditions. Autophagy is a tumor suppression mechanism yet it enables tumor cell survival in stress. Reconciling how loss of a prosurvival function can promote tumorigenesis, emerging evidence suggests that preservation of cellular fitness by autophagy may be key to tumor suppression. As autophagy is such a fundamental process, establishing how the functional status of autophagy influences tumorigenesis and treatment response is important. This is especially critical as many current cancer therapeutics activate autophagy. Therefore, efforts to understand and modulate the autophagy pathway will provide new approaches to cancer therapy and prevention.
PMCID: PMC2737083  PMID: 19706824
4.  Autophagic cell death exists 
Autophagy  2012;8(6):867-869.
The term autophagic cell death (ACD) initially referred to cell death with greatly enhanced autophagy, but is increasingly used to imply a death-mediating role of autophagy, as shown by a protective effect of autophagy inhibition. In addition, many authors require that autophagic cell death must not involve apoptosis or necrosis. Adopting these new and restrictive criteria, and emphasizing their own failure to protect human osteosarcoma cells by autophagy inhibition, the authors of a recent Editor’s Corner article in this journal argued for the extreme rarity or nonexistence of autophagic cell death. We here maintain that, even with the more stringent recent criteria, autophagic cell death exists in several situations, some of which were ignored by the Editor’s Corner authors. We reject their additional criterion that the autophagy in ACD must be the agent of ultimate cell dismantlement. And we argue that rapidly dividing mammalian cells such as cancer cells are not the most likely situation for finding pure ACD.
PMCID: PMC3427251  PMID: 22652592
apoptosis; autophagy; autophagic cell death; cell death; necrosis
5.  The CD40-Autophagy Pathway Is Needed for Host Protection Despite IFN-Γ-Dependent Immunity and CD40 Induces Autophagy via Control of P21 Levels 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(12):e14472.
Autophagy degrades pathogens in vitro. The autophagy gene Atg5 has been reported to be required for IFN-γ-dependent host protection in vivo. However, these protective effects occur independently of autophagosome formation. Thus, the in vivo role of classic autophagy in protection conferred by adaptive immunity and how adaptive immunity triggers autophagy are incompletely understood. Employing biochemical, genetic and morphological studies, we found that CD40 upregulates the autophagy molecule Beclin 1 in microglia and triggers killing of Toxoplasma gondii dependent on the autophagy machinery. Infected CD40−/− mice failed to upregulate Beclin 1 in microglia/macrophages in vivo. Autophagy-deficient Beclin 1+/− mice, mice with deficiency of the autophagy protein Atg7 targeted to microglia/macrophages as well as CD40−/− mice exhibited impaired killing of T. gondii and were susceptible to cerebral and ocular toxoplasmosis. Susceptibility to toxoplasmosis occurred despite upregulation of IFN-γ, TNF-α and NOS2, preservation of IFN-γ-induced microglia/macrophage anti-T. gondii activity and the generation of anti-T. gondii T cell immunity. CD40 upregulated Beclin 1 and triggered killing of T. gondii by decreasing protein levels of p21, a molecule that degrades Beclin 1. These studies identified CD40-p21-Beclin 1 as a pathway by which adaptive immunity stimulates autophagy. In addition, they support that autophagy is a mechanism through which CD40-dependent immunity mediates in vivo protection and that the CD40-autophagic machinery is needed for host resistance despite IFN-γ.
PMCID: PMC3013095  PMID: 21217818
6.  Autophagy in Muscle of Glucose-Infusion Hyperglycemia Rats and Streptozotocin-Induced Hyperglycemia Rats via Selective Activation of m-TOR or FoxO3 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(2):e87254.
Autophagy is a conserved process in eukaryotes required for metabolism and is involved in diverse diseases. To investigate autophagy in skeletal muscle under hyperglycemia status, we established two hyperglycemia-rat models that differ in their circulating insulin levels, by glucose infusion and singe high-dose streptozotocin injection. We then detected expression of autophagy related genes with real-time PCR and western blot. We found that under hyperglycemia status induced by glucose-infusion, autophagy was inhibited in rat skeletal muscle, whereas under streptozotocin-induced hyperglycemia status autophagy was enhanced. Meanwhile, hyperglycemic gastrocnemius muscle was more prone to autophagy than soleus muscle. Furthermore, inhibition of autophagy in skeletal muscle in glucose-infusion hyperglycemia rats was mediated by the m-TOR pathway while m-TOR and FoxO3 both contributed to enhancement of autophagy in gastrocnemius muscle in streptozotocin-induced hyperglycemia rats. These data shows that insulin plays a relatively more important role than hyperglycemia in regulating autophagy in hyperglycemia rat muscle through selectively activating the m-TOR or FoxO3 pathway in a fiber-selective manner.
PMCID: PMC3911944  PMID: 24498304
7.  Induction of Autophagy by a Novel Small Molecule Improves Aβ Pathology and Ameliorates Cognitive Deficits 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(6):e65367.
Growing evidence has demonstrated a neuroprotective role of autophagy in Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Thus, autophagy has been regarded as a potential therapeutic target, attracting increasing interest in pharmaceutical autophagy modulation by small molecules. We designed a two-cycle screening strategy on the basis of imaging high-throughout screening (HTS) and cellular toxicity assay, and have identified a novel autophagy inducer known as GTM-1. We further showed that GTM-1 exhibits dual activities, such as autophagy induction and antagonism against Aβ-oligomer toxicity. GTM-1 modulates autophagy in an Akt-independent and mTOR-independent manner. In addition, we demonstrated that GTM-1 enhances autophagy clearance and reverses the downregulation of autophagy flux by thapsigargin and asparagine. Furthermore, administration of GTM-1 attenuated Aβ pathology and ameliorated cognitive deficits in AD mice.
PMCID: PMC3672196  PMID: 23750258
8.  Autophagy Attenuates Diabetic Glomerular Damage through Protection of Hyperglycemia-Induced Podocyte Injury 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(4):e60546.
Despite the recent attention focused on the important role of autophagy in maintaining podocyte homeostasis, little is known about the changes and mechanisms of autophagy in podocyte dysfunction under diabetic condition. In this study, we investigated the role of autophagy in podocyte biology and its involvement in the pathogenesis of diabetic nephropathy. Podocytes had a high basal level of autophagy. And basal autophagy inhibition either by 3-methyladenenine (3-MA) or by Beclin-1 siRNA was detrimental to its architectural structure. However, under diabetic condition in vivo and under high glucose conditions in vitro, high basal level of autophagy in podocytes became defective and defective autophagy facilitated the podocyte injury. Since the dynamics of endoplasmic reticulum(ER) seemed to play a vital role in regulating the autophagic flux, the results that Salubrinal/Tauroursodeoxycholic acid (TUDCA) could restore defective autophagy further indicated that the evolution of autophagy may be mediated by the changes of cytoprotective output in the ER stress. Finally, we demonstrated in vivo that the autophagy of podocyte was inhibited under diabetic status and TUDCA could improve defective autophagy. Taken together, these data suggested that autophagy might be interrupted due to the failure of ER cytoprotective capacity upon high glucose induced unmitigated stress, and the defective autophagy might accelerate the irreparable progression of diabetic nephropathy.
PMCID: PMC3623813  PMID: 23593240
9.  West Nile Virus (WNV) Replication Is Independent of Autophagy in Mammalian Cells 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(9):e45800.
Autophagy is a homeostatic process responsible for recycling cytosolic proteins and organelles. Moreover, this pathway contributes to the cell’s intrinsic innate defenses. While many viruses have evolved mechanisms to antagonize the antiviral effects of the autophagy pathway, others subvert autophagy to facilitate replication. Here, we have investigated the role of autophagy in West Nile virus (WNV) replication. Experiments in cell lines derived from a variety of sources, including the kidney, liver, skin, and brain, indicated that WNV replication does not upregulate the autophagy pathway. Furthermore, WNV infection did not inhibit rapamycin-induced autophagy, suggesting that WNV does not disrupt the authophagy signaling cascade. Perturbation of the autophagy pathway by depletion of the major autophagy factors Atg5 or Atg7 had no effect on WNV infectious particle production, indicating that WNV does not require a functional autophagy pathway for replication. Taken together, the results of our study provide evidence that WNV, unlike several other viruses of the family Flaviviridae, does not significantly interact with the conventional autophagy pathway in mammalian cells.
PMCID: PMC3448696  PMID: 23029249
10.  IRGM Is a Common Target of RNA Viruses that Subvert the Autophagy Network 
PLoS Pathogens  2011;7(12):e1002422.
Autophagy is a conserved degradative pathway used as a host defense mechanism against intracellular pathogens. However, several viruses can evade or subvert autophagy to insure their own replication. Nevertheless, the molecular details of viral interaction with autophagy remain largely unknown. We have determined the ability of 83 proteins of several families of RNA viruses (Paramyxoviridae, Flaviviridae, Orthomyxoviridae, Retroviridae and Togaviridae), to interact with 44 human autophagy-associated proteins using yeast two-hybrid and bioinformatic analysis. We found that the autophagy network is highly targeted by RNA viruses. Although central to autophagy, targeted proteins have also a high number of connections with proteins of other cellular functions. Interestingly, immunity-associated GTPase family M (IRGM), the most targeted protein, was found to interact with the autophagy-associated proteins ATG5, ATG10, MAP1CL3C and SH3GLB1. Strikingly, reduction of IRGM expression using small interfering RNA impairs both Measles virus (MeV), Hepatitis C virus (HCV) and human immunodeficiency virus-1 (HIV-1)-induced autophagy and viral particle production. Moreover we found that the expression of IRGM-interacting MeV-C, HCV-NS3 or HIV-NEF proteins per se is sufficient to induce autophagy, through an IRGM dependent pathway. Our work reveals an unexpected role of IRGM in virus-induced autophagy and suggests that several different families of RNA viruses may use common strategies to manipulate autophagy to improve viral infectivity.
Author Summary
Autophagy is a highly regulated cellular degradative pathway for recycling of long-lived proteins and damaged organelles. Autophagy is also used by host cells as a defense mechanism against intracellular pathogens. Autophagy can degrade pathogens or pathogen-derived molecules trapped within specialized vesicles named autophagosomes. Viruses and viral proteins are not an exception. However, since autophagy is a conserved pathway, viruses were submitted to an evolutionary pressure that led to the selection of molecular strategies which avoid or subvert this process to promote viral replication. Nevertheless the molecular details of viral interaction with autophagy remain largely unknown. We determined the ability of 83 proteins of several families of RNA viruses (including Hepatitis C virus (HCV), human immunodeficiency virus 1 (HIV-1), Measles virus (MeV) and influenza A virus) to interact with 44 human proteins known to regulate autophagy and found that autophagy is highly targeted by RNA viruses. Strikingly, immunity-associated GTPase family M (IRGM), known for its role in autophagy against bacteria, is the most targeted autophagy protein. Its absence is detrimental for HCV, HIV-1 and MeV production. Therefore, our data show that different RNA viruses families use similar strategies to fine tune autophagy to their own benefit.
PMCID: PMC3234227  PMID: 22174682
11.  Inhibition of HIV-1 replication with stable RNAi-mediated knockdown of autophagy factors 
Virology Journal  2012;9:69.
Autophagy is a cellular process leading to the degradation of cytoplasmic components such as organelles and intracellular pathogens. It has been shown that HIV-1 relies on several components of the autophagy pathway for its replication, but the virus also blocks late steps of autophagy to prevent its degradation. We generated stable knockdown T cell lines for 12 autophagy factors and analyzed the impact on HIV-1 replication. RNAi-mediated knockdown of 5 autophagy factors resulted in inhibition of HIV-1 replication. Autophagy analysis confirmed a specific defect in the autophagy pathway for 4 of these 5 factors. We also scored the impact on cell viability, but no gross effects were observed. Upon simultaneous knockdown of 2 autophagy factors (Atg16 and Atg5), an additive inhibitory effect was scored on HIV-1 replication. Stable knockdown of several autophagy factors inhibit HIV-1 replication without any apparent cytotoxicity. We therefore propose that targeting of the autophagy pathway can be a novel therapeutic approach against HIV-1
PMCID: PMC3342116  PMID: 22424437
HIV-1; Autophagy; RNAi; Antiviral
12.  Autophagy in Toxicology: Self-consumption in times of stress and plenty 
Autophagy is a critical cellular process orchestrating the lysosomal degradation of cellular components in order to maintain cellular homeostasis and respond to cellular stress. A growing research effort over the last decade has proven autophagy to be essential for constitutive protein and organelle turnover, for embryonic/neonatal survival, and for cell survival during conditions of environmental stress. Emphasizing its biological importance, dysfunctional autophagy contributes to a diverse set of human diseases. Cellular stress induced by xenobiotic exposure typifies environmental stress, and can result in the induction of autophagy as a cytoprotective mechanism. An increasing number of xenobiotics are notable for their ability to modulate the induction or the rate of autophagy. The role of autophagy in normal cellular homeostasis, the intricate relationship between cellular stress and the induction of autophagy, and the identification of specific xenobiotics capable of modulating autophagy, point to the importance of the autophagic process in toxicology. This review will summarize the importance of autophagy and its role in cellular response to stress, including examples in which consideration of autophagy has contributed to a more complete understanding of toxicant-perturbed systems.
PMCID: PMC3572937  PMID: 22334383
13.  Enhanced autophagy ameliorates cardiac proteinopathy 
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  2013;123(12):5284-5297.
Basal autophagy is a crucial mechanism in cellular homeostasis, underlying both normal cellular recycling and the clearance of damaged or misfolded proteins, organelles and aggregates. We showed here that enhanced levels of autophagy induced by either autophagic gene overexpression or voluntary exercise ameliorated desmin-related cardiomyopathy (DRC). To increase levels of basal autophagy, we generated an inducible Tg mouse expressing autophagy-related 7 (Atg7), a critical and rate-limiting autophagy protein. Hearts from these mice had enhanced autophagy, but normal morphology and function. We crossed these mice with CryABR120G mice, a model of DRC in which autophagy is significantly attenuated in the heart, to test the functional significance of autophagy activation in a proteotoxic model of heart failure. Sustained Atg7-induced autophagy in the CryABR120G hearts decreased interstitial fibrosis, ameliorated ventricular dysfunction, decreased cardiac hypertrophy, reduced intracellular aggregates and prolonged survival. To determine whether different methods of autophagy upregulation have additive or even synergistic benefits, we subjected the autophagy-deficient CryABR120G mice and the Atg7-crossed CryABR120G mice to voluntary exercise, which also upregulates autophagy. The entire exercised Atg7-crossed CryABR120G cohort survived to 7 months. These findings suggest that activating autophagy may be a viable therapeutic strategy for improving cardiac performance under proteotoxic conditions.
PMCID: PMC3859422  PMID: 24177425
14.  Role of the Crosstalk between Autophagy and Apoptosis in Cancer 
Journal of Oncology  2013;2013:102735.
Autophagy and apoptosis are catabolic pathways essential for organismal homeostasis. Autophagy is normally a cell-survival pathway involving the degradation and recycling of obsolete, damaged, or harmful macromolecular assemblies; however, excess autophagy has been implicated in type II cell death. Apoptosis is the canonical programmed cell death pathway. Autophagy and apoptosis have now been shown to be interconnected by several molecular nodes of crosstalk, enabling the coordinate regulation of degradation by these pathways. Normally, autophagy and apoptosis are both tumor suppressor pathways. Autophagy fulfils this role as it facilitates the degradation of oncogenic molecules, preventing development of cancers, while apoptosis prevents the survival of cancer cells. Consequently, defective or inadequate levels of either autophagy or apoptosis can lead to cancer. However, autophagy appears to have a dual role in cancer, as it has now been shown that autophagy also facilitates the survival of tumor cells in stress conditions such as hypoxic or low-nutrition environments. Here we review the multiple molecular mechanisms of coordination of autophagy and apoptosis and the role of the proteins involved in this crosstalk in cancer. A comprehensive understanding of the interconnectivity of autophagy and apoptosis is essential for the development of effective cancer therapeutics.
PMCID: PMC3687500  PMID: 23840208
15.  Sustained Autophagy Contributes to Measles Virus Infectivity 
PLoS Pathogens  2013;9(9):e1003599.
The interplay between autophagy and intracellular pathogens is intricate as autophagy is an essential cellular response to fight against infections, whereas numerous microbes have developed strategies to escape this process or even exploit it to their own benefit. The fine tuned timing and/or selective molecular pathways involved in the induction of autophagy upon infections could be the cornerstone allowing cells to either control intracellular pathogens, or be invaded by them. We report here that measles virus infection induces successive autophagy signallings in permissive cells, via distinct and uncoupled molecular pathways. Immediately upon infection, attenuated measles virus induces a first transient wave of autophagy, via a pathway involving its cellular receptor CD46 and the scaffold protein GOPC. Soon after infection, a new autophagy signalling is initiated which requires viral replication and the expression of the non-structural measles virus protein C. Strikingly, this second autophagy signalling can be sustained overtime within infected cells, independently of the expression of C, but via a third autophagy input resulting from cell-cell fusion and the formation of syncytia. Whereas this sustained autophagy signalling leads to the autophagy degradation of cellular contents, viral proteins escape from degradation. Furthermore, this autophagy flux is ultimately exploited by measles virus to limit the death of infected cells and to improve viral particle formation. Whereas CD150 dependent virulent strains of measles virus are unable to induce the early CD46/GOPC dependent autophagy wave, they induce and exploit the late and sustained autophagy. Overall, our work describes distinct molecular pathways for an induction of self-beneficial sustained autophagy by measles virus.
Author Summary
Autophagy is an evolutionarily conserved lysosomal dependent degradative pathway for recycling of long-lived proteins and damaged organelles. Autophagy is also an essential cellular response to fight infection by destroying infectious pathogens trapped within autophagosomes and plays a key role in the induction of both innate and adaptive immune responses. Numerous viruses have evolved strategies to counteract autophagy in order to escape from degradation or/and to inhibit immune signals. The kinetic and molecular pathways involved in the induction of autophagy upon infections might determine if cells would be able to control pathogens or would be invaded by them. We showed that measles virus (MeV) infection induces successive autophagy signallings in cells via distinct molecular pathways. A first autophagy wave is induced by the engagement of the MeV cellular receptor CD46 and the scaffold protein GOPC. A second wave is initiated after viral replication by the expression of the non-structural MeV protein C and is sustained overtime within infected cells thanks to the formation of syncytia. This sustained autophagy is exploited by MeV to limit the death of infected cells and to improve viral particle formation. We describe new molecular pathways by which MeV hijacks autophagy to promote its infectivity.
PMCID: PMC3784470  PMID: 24086130
16.  Decreased Autophagy Contributes to Myocardial Dysfunction in Rats Subjected to Nonlethal Mechanical Trauma 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(8):e71400.
Autophagy is important in cells for removing damaged organelles, such as mitochondria. Insufficient autophagy plays a critical role in tissue injury and organ dysfunction under a variety of pathological conditions. However, the role of autophagy in nonlethal traumatic cardiac damage remains unclear. The aims of the present study were to investigate whether nonlethal mechanical trauma may result in the change of cardiomyocyte autophagy, and if so, to determine whether the changed myocardial autophagy may contribute to delayed cardiac dysfunction. Male adult rats were subjected to nonlethal traumatic injury, and cardiomyocyte autophagy, cardiac mitochondrial function, and cardiac function in isolated perfused hearts were detected. Direct mechanical traumatic injury was not observed in the heart within 24 h after trauma. However, cardiomyocyte autophagy gradually decreased and reached a minimal level 6 h after trauma. Cardiac mitochondrial dysfunction was observed by cardiac radionuclide imaging 6 h after trauma, and cardiac dysfunction was observed 24 h after trauma in the isolated perfused heart. These were reversed when autophagy was induced by administration of the autophagy inducer rapamycin 30 min before trauma. Our present study demonstrated for the first time that nonlethal traumatic injury caused decreased autophagy, and decreased autophagy may contribute to post-traumatic organ dysfunction. Though our study has some limitations, it strongly suggests that cardiac damage induced by nonlethal mechanical trauma can be detected by noninvasive radionuclide imaging, and induction of autophagy may be a novel strategy for reducing posttrauma multiple organ failure.
PMCID: PMC3747162  PMID: 23977036
17.  NBR1-Mediated Selective Autophagy Targets Insoluble Ubiquitinated Protein Aggregates in Plant Stress Responses 
PLoS Genetics  2013;9(1):e1003196.
Plant autophagy plays an important role in delaying senescence, nutrient recycling, and stress responses. Functional analysis of plant autophagy has almost exclusively focused on the proteins required for the core process of autophagosome assembly, but little is known about the proteins involved in other important processes of autophagy, including autophagy cargo recognition and sequestration. In this study, we report functional genetic analysis of Arabidopsis NBR1, a homolog of mammalian autophagy cargo adaptors P62 and NBR1. We isolated two nbr1 knockout mutants and discovered that they displayed some but not all of the phenotypes of autophagy-deficient atg5 and atg7 mutants. Like ATG5 and ATG7, NBR1 is important for plant tolerance to heat, oxidative, salt, and drought stresses. The role of NBR1 in plant tolerance to these abiotic stresses is dependent on its interaction with ATG8. Unlike ATG5 and ATG7, however, NBR1 is dispensable in age- and darkness-induced senescence and in resistance to a necrotrophic pathogen. A selective role of NBR1 in plant responses to specific abiotic stresses suggest that plant autophagy in diverse biological processes operates through multiple cargo recognition and delivery systems. The compromised heat tolerance of atg5, atg7, and nbr1 mutants was associated with increased accumulation of insoluble, detergent-resistant proteins that were highly ubiquitinated under heat stress. NBR1, which contains an ubiquitin-binding domain, also accumulated to high levels with an increasing enrichment in the insoluble protein fraction in the autophagy-deficient mutants under heat stress. These results suggest that NBR1-mediated autophagy targets ubiquitinated protein aggregates most likely derived from denatured or otherwise damaged nonnative proteins generated under stress conditions.
Author Summary
Autophagy is an evolutionarily conserved process that sequestrates and delivers cytoplasmic macromolecules and organelles to the vacuoles or lysosomes for degradation. In plants, autophagy is involved in supplying internal nutrients during starvation and in promoting cell survival during senescence and during biotic and abiotic stresses. Arabidopsis NBR1 is a homolog of mammalian autophagy cargo adaptors P62 and NBR1. Disruption of Arabidopsis NBR1 caused increased sensitivity to a spectrum of abiotic stresses but had no significant effect on plant senescence, responses to carbon starvation, or resistance to a necrotrophic pathogen. NBR1 contains an ubiquitin-binding domain, and the compromised stress tolerance of autophagy mutants was associated with increased accumulation of NBR1 and ubiquitin-positive cellular protein aggregates in the insoluble protein fraction under stress conditions. Based on these results, we propose that NBR1 targets ubiquitinated protein aggregates most likely derived from denatured and otherwise damaged nonnative proteins for autophagic clearance under stress conditions.
PMCID: PMC3547818  PMID: 23341779
18.  Inflammasome-Independent Modulation of Cytokine Response by Autophagy in Human Cells 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(4):e18666.
Autophagy is a cell housekeeping mechanism that has recently received attention in relation to its effects on the immune response. Genetic studies have identified candidate loci for Crohn's disease susceptibility among autophagy genes, while experiments in murine macrophages from ATG16L1 deficient mice have shown that disruption of autophagy increases processing of IL-1β and IL-18 through an inflammasome-dependent manner. Using complementary approaches either inducing or inhibiting autophagy, we describe modulatory effects of autophagy on proinflammatory cytokine production in human cells. Inhibition of basal autophagy in human peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) significantly enhances IL-1β after stimulation with TLR2 or TLR4 ligands, while at the same time reducing the production of TNFα. In line with this, induction of autophagy by starvation inhibited IL-1β production. These effects of autophagy were not exerted at the processing step, as inflammasome activation was not influenced. In contrast, the effect of autophagy on cytokine production was on transcription level, and possibly involving the inhibition of p38 mitogen activated protein kinase (MAPK) phosphorylation. In conclusion, autophagy modulates the secretion of proinflammatory cytokines in human cells through an inflammasome-independent pathway, and this is a novel mechanism that may be targeted in inflammatory diseases.
PMCID: PMC3072416  PMID: 21490934
19.  Autophagy and Viruses: Adversaries or Allies? 
Journal of innate immunity  2013;5(5):480-493.
The autophagy pathway is an essential component of host defense against viral infection, orchestrating pathogen degradation (xenophagy), innate immune signaling, and certain aspects of adaptive immunity. Single autophagy proteins or cassettes of the core autophagy machinery can also function as antiviral factors independently of the canonical autophagy pathway. Moreover, to survive and propagate within the host, viruses have evolved a variety of strategies to evade autophagic attack and manipulate the autophagy machinery for their own benefit. This Review summarizes recent advances in understanding the antiviral and proviral roles of autophagy and previously unappreciated autophagy-independent functions of autophagy-related genes.
PMCID: PMC3790331  PMID: 23391695
Autophagy; virophagy; antiviral immunity
20.  Autophagy and selective deployment of Atg proteins in antiviral defense 
International Immunology  2012;25(1):1-10.
A repertoire of mechanisms in the autophagy system combats viral infections.
Autophagy is an evolutionarily ancient process eukaryotic cells utilize to remove and recycle intracellular material in order to maintain cellular homeostasis. In metazoans, the autophagy machinery not only functions in this capacity but also has evolved to perform a diverse repertoire of intracellular transport and regulatory functions. In response to virus infections, the autophagy machinery degrades viruses, shuttles viral pathogen-associated molecular patterns to endosomes containing Toll-like receptors, facilitates viral-antigen processing for major histocompatibility complex presentation and transports antiviral proteins to viral replication sites. This is accomplished through canonical autophagy or through processes involving distinct subsets of the autophagy-related genes (Atgs). Herein, we discuss how the variable components of the autophagy machinery contribute to antiviral defense and highlight three emerging themes: first, autophagy delivers viral cytosolic components to several distinct endolysosomal compartments; second, Atg proteins act alone, as subgroups or collectively; and third, the specificity of autophagy and the autophagy machinery is achieved by recognition of triggers and selective targeting by adaptors.
PMCID: PMC3534236  PMID: 23042773
autophagy; dendritic cells; innate immunity; T-cell responses; virus infection
21.  Autophagy in breast cancer and its implications for therapy 
Autophagy is an evolutionarily conserved process of cellular self-digestion that serves as a mechanism to clear damaged organelles and recycle nutrients. Since autophagy can promote cell survival as well as cell death, it has been linked to different human pathologies, including cancer. Although mono-allelic deletion of autophagy-related gene BECN1 in breast tumors originally indicated a tumor suppressive role for autophagy in breast cancer, the intense research during the last decade suggests a role for autophagy in tumor progression. It is now recognized that tumor cells often utilize autophagy to survive various stresses, such as oncogene-induced transformation, hypoxia, endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress and extracellular matrix detachment. Induction of autophagy by tumor cells may also contribute to tumor dormancy and resistance to anticancer therapies, thus making autophagy inhibitors promising drug candidates for breast cancer treatment. The scientific endeavors continue to define a precise role for autophagy in breast cancer. In this article, we review the current literature on the role of autophagy during the development and progression of breast cancer, and discuss the potential of autophagy modulators for breast cancer treatment.
PMCID: PMC3696532  PMID: 23841025
Autophagy; breast cancer; transformation; hypoxia; ER stress; tumor microenvironment; metabolism; metastasis; apoptosis; cancer therapy
22.  Autophagy and apoptosis: rivals or mates? 
Chinese Journal of Cancer  2013;32(3):103-105.
Autophagy, a cellular process of “self-eating” by which intracellular components are degraded within the lysosome, is an evolutionarily conserved response to various stresses. Autophagy is associated with numerous patho-physiological conditions, and dysregulation of autophagy contributes to the pathogenesis of a variety of human diseases including cancer. Depending on context, activation of autophagy may promote either cell survival or death, two major events that determine pathological process of many illnesses. Importantly, the activity of autophagy is often associated with apoptosis, another critical cellular process determining cellular fate. A better understanding of biology of autophagy and its implication in human health and disorder, as well as the relationship between autophagy and apoptosis, has the potential of facilitating the development of autophagy-based therapeutic interventions for human diseases such as cancer.
PMCID: PMC3845593  PMID: 23419194
Autophagy; apoptosis; cancer; molecular regulation
23.  The Autophagy Inhibitor Verteporfin Moderately Enhances the Antitumor Activity of Gemcitabine in a Pancreatic Ductal Adenocarcinoma Model 
Journal of Cancer  2013;4(7):585-596.
Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) is highly resistant to chemotherapy. It has been described as requiring elevated autophagy for growth and inhibiting autophagy has been proposed as a treatment strategy. To date, all preclinical reports and clinical trials investigating pharmacological inhibition of autophagy have used chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine, which interfere with lysosomal function and block autophagy at a late stage. Verteporfin is a newly discovered autophagy inhibitor that blocks autophagy at an early stage by inhibiting autophagosome formation. Here we report that PDAC cell lines show variable sensitivity to verteporfin in vitro, suggesting cell-line specific autophagy dependence. Using image-based and molecular analyses, we show that verteporfin inhibits autophagy stimulated by gemcitabine, the current standard treatment for PDAC. Pharmacokinetic and efficacy studies in a BxPC-3 xenograft mouse model demonstrated that verteporfin accumulated in tumors at autophagy-inhibiting levels and inhibited autophagy in vivo, but did not reduce tumor volume or increase survival as a single agent. In combination with gemcitabine verteporfin moderately reduced tumor growth and enhanced survival compared to gemcitabine alone. While our results do not uphold the premise that autophagy inhibition might be widely effective against PDAC as a single-modality treatment, they do support autophagy inhibition as an approach to sensitize PDAC to gemcitabine.
PMCID: PMC3781989  PMID: 24069069
autophagy; pancreatic cancer; verteporfin; gemcitabine; chemosensitization
24.  Death-associated protein kinase (DAPK) and signal transduction: fine-tuning of autophagy in Caenorhabditis elegans homeostasis 
The FEBS journal  2009;277(1):66.
Autophagy is an evolutionarily conserved lysosomal pathway used to degrade and recycle long-lived proteins and cytoplasmic organelles. This homeostatic ability makes autophagy an important pro-survival mechanism in response to several stresses, such as nutrient starvation, hypoxia, damaged mitochondria, protein aggregation and pathogens. However, several recent studies have highlighted that autophagy also acts as a pro-death mechanism. What on the surface seem like conflicting roles of autophagy may be explained by the fact that the decision between pro-survival and pro-death is determined by the level of activation. A better understanding of autophagy signaling pathways will be helpful to elucidate how the level of autophagy is precisely regulated under different conditions and eventually how the final outcome is decided. In this review, we briefly discuss the pro-survival and pro-death roles of autophagy, and then discuss the mechanism by which autophagy is regulated, mainly focusing on death-associated protein kinase in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans.
PMCID: PMC2819343  PMID: 19878311
autophagy; Caenorhabditis elegans; cell death; death-associated protein kinase; starvation
25.  Targeting Autophagy Addiction in Cancer 
Oncotarget  2011;2(12):1302-1306.
Autophagy inhibition is a novel cancer therapeutic strategy in the early stages of clinical trial testing. The initial rationale for using autophagy inhibition was generated by research revealing that autophagy is upregulated in response to external stresses, including chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Combining autophagy inhibition with agents that induce autophagy as a pro-survival response may therefore increase their therapeutic efficacy. Recent research has shown that some cancer cells, particularly those driven by the K-Ras oncogene, also depend on elevated levels of autophagy for survival even in the absence of external stressors. In multiple in vitro as well as in vivo systems, oncogenic Ras-mediated transformation and tumor growth are dependent on autophagy to evade metabolic stress and cell death. These studies have subsequently led to further early phase clinical testing whether autophagy inhibition is a viable and effective strategy for targeting Ras-driven tumors. Even before the clinical results are available from these ongoing clinical trials, much work remains to optimally develop the approach of autophagy inhibition clinically; most notably reliably detecting levels of autophagy in human tumor samples, pharmacodynamics of currently available autophagy inhibitors (chloroquine and the derivative hydroxychloroquine), and new target identification and drug development.
PMCID: PMC3282086  PMID: 22185891
Autophagy; Ras; Metabolism; Cancer; tumor; therapy

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