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1.  DRAM-3 modulates autophagy and promotes cell survival in the absence of glucose 
Cell Death and Differentiation  2015;22(10):1714-1726.
Macroautophagy is a membrane-trafficking process that delivers cytoplasmic constituents to lysosomes for degradation. The process operates under basal conditions as a mechanism to turnover damaged or misfolded proteins and organelles. As a result, it has a major role in preserving cellular integrity and viability. In addition to this basal function, macroautophagy can also be modulated in response to various forms of cellular stress, and the rate and cargoes of macroautophagy can be tailored to facilitate appropriate cellular responses in particular situations. The macroautophagy machinery is regulated by a group of evolutionarily conserved autophagy-related (ATG) proteins and by several other autophagy regulators, which either have tissue-restricted expression or operate in specific contexts. We report here the characterization of a novel autophagy regulator that we have termed DRAM-3 due to its significant homology to damage-regulated autophagy modulator (DRAM-1). DRAM-3 is expressed in a broad spectrum of normal tissues and tumor cells, but different from DRAM-1, DRAM-3 is not induced by p53 or DNA-damaging agents. Immunofluorescence studies revealed that DRAM-3 localizes to lysosomes/autolysosomes, endosomes and the plasma membrane, but not the endoplasmic reticulum, phagophores, autophagosomes or Golgi, indicating significant overlap with DRAM-1 localization and with organelles associated with macroautophagy. In this regard, we further proceed to show that DRAM-3 expression causes accumulation of autophagosomes under basal conditions and enhances autophagic flux. Reciprocally, CRISPR/Cas9-mediated disruption of DRAM-3 impairs autophagic flux confirming that DRAM-3 is a modulator of macroautophagy. As macroautophagy can be cytoprotective under starvation conditions, we also tested whether DRAM-3 could promote survival on nutrient deprivation. This revealed that DRAM-3 can repress cell death and promote long-term clonogenic survival of cells grown in the absence of glucose. Interestingly, however, this effect is macroautophagy-independent. In summary, these findings constitute the primary characterization of DRAM-3 as a modulator of both macroautophagy and cell survival under starvation conditions.
PMCID: PMC4563785  PMID: 25929859
2.  An Atg1/Atg13 Complex with Multiple Roles in TOR-mediated Autophagy Regulation 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2009;20(7):2004-2014.
The TOR kinases are conserved negative regulators of autophagy in response to nutrient conditions, but the signaling mechanisms are poorly understood. Here we describe a complex containing the protein kinase Atg1 and the phosphoprotein Atg13 that functions as a critical component of this regulation in Drosophila. We show that knockout of Atg1 or Atg13 results in a similar, selective defect in autophagy in response to TOR inactivation. Atg1 physically interacts with TOR and Atg13 in vivo, and both Atg1 and Atg13 are phosphorylated in a nutrient-, TOR- and Atg1 kinase-dependent manner. In contrast to yeast, phosphorylation of Atg13 is greatest under autophagic conditions and does not preclude Atg1-Atg13 association. Atg13 stimulates both the autophagic activity of Atg1 and its inhibition of cell growth and TOR signaling, in part by disrupting the normal trafficking of TOR. In contrast to the effects of normal Atg13 levels, increased expression of Atg13 inhibits autophagosome expansion and recruitment of Atg8/LC3, potentially by decreasing the stability of Atg1 and facilitating its inhibitory phosphorylation by TOR. Atg1-Atg13 complexes thus function at multiple levels to mediate and adjust nutrient-dependent autophagic signaling.
PMCID: PMC2663935  PMID: 19225150
3.  Loss of Macroautophagy Promotes or Prevents Fibroblast Apoptosis Depending on the Death Stimulus*S◆ 
The Journal of biological chemistry  2007;283(8):4766-4777.
Macroautophagy has been implicated as a mechanism of cell death. However, the relationship between this degradative pathway and cell death is unclear as macroautophagy has been shown recently to protect against apoptosis. To better define the inter-play between these two critical cellular processes, we determined whether inhibition of macroautophagy could have both pro-apoptotic and anti-apoptotic effects in the same cell. Embryonic fibroblasts from mice with a knock-out of the essential macroautophagy gene atg5 were treated with activators of the extrinsic and intrinsic death pathways. Loss of macroautophagy sensitized these cells to caspase-dependent apoptosis from the death receptor ligands Fas and tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α). Atg5−/− mouse embryonic fibroblasts had increased activation of the mitochondrial death pathway in response to Fas/TNF-α in concert with decreased ATP levels. Fas/TNF-α treatment failed to up-regulate macroautophagy, and in fact, decreased activity at late time points. In contrast to their sensitization to Fas/TNF-α, Atg5−/− cells were resistant to death from menadione and UV light. In the absence of macroautophagy, an up-regulation of chaperone-mediated autophagy induced resistance to these stressors. These results demonstrate that inhibition of macroautophagy can promote or prevent apoptosis in the same cell and that the response is governed by the nature of the death stimulus and compensatory changes in other forms of autophagy. Experimental findings that an inhibition of macroautophagy blocks apoptosis do not prove that autophagy mediates cell death as this effect may result from the protective up-regulation of other autophagic pathways such as chaperone-mediated autophagy.
PMCID: PMC2754125  PMID: 18073215
4.  Impaired Autophagy: A Mechanism of Mitochondrial Dysfunction in Anoxic Rat Hepatocytes 
Hepatology (Baltimore, Md.)  2008;47(5):1725-1736.
Autophagy selectively removes abnormal or damaged organelles such as dysfunctional mitochondria. The mitochondrial permeability transition (MPT) is a marker of impaired mitochondrial function that is evident in hepatic ischemia/reperfusion (I/R) injury. However, the relationship between mitochondrial dysfunction and autophagy in I/R injury is unknown. Cultured rat hepatocytes and mouse livers were exposed to anoxia/reoxygenation (A/R) and I/R, respectively. Expression of autophagyrelatedprotein7(Atg7),Beclin-1,andAtg12,autophagyregulatoryproteins,wasanalyzedbywestern blots. Some hepatocytes were incubated with calpain 2 inhibitors or infected with adenoviruses encoding green fluorescent protein (control), Atg7, and Beclin-1 to augment autophagy. To induce nutrient depletion, a condition stimulating autophagy, hepatocytes were incubated in an amino acid–free and serum-free medium for 3 hours prior to onset of anoxia. For confocal imaging, hepatocytes were coloaded with calcein and tetramethylrhodamine methyl ester to visualize onset of the MPT and mitochondrial depolarization, respectively. To further examine autophagy, hepatocytes were infected with an adenovirus expressing green fluorescent protein–microtubule-associated protein light chain 3 (GFP-LC3) and subjected to A/R. Calpain activity was fluorometrically determined with succinyl-Leu-Leu-Val-Tyr-7-amino-4-methylcoumarin. A/R markedly decreased Atg7 and Beclin-1 concomitantly with a progressive increase in calpain activity. I/R of livers also decreased both proteins. However, inhibition of calpain isoform 2, adenoviral overexpression, and nutrient depletion all substantially suppressed A/R-induced loss of autophagy proteins, prevented onset of the MPT, and decreased cell death after reoxygenation. Confocal imaging of GFP-LC3 confirmed A/R-induced depletion of autophagosomes, which was reversed by nutrient depletion and adenoviral overexpression.
Calpain 2–mediated degradation of Atg7 and Beclin-1 impairs mitochondrial autophagy, and this subsequently leads to MPT-dependent hepatocyte death after A/R.
PMCID: PMC3971577  PMID: 18311843
5.  Distinct Roles in Autophagy and Importance in Infectivity of the Two ATG4 Cysteine Peptidases of Leishmania major* 
The Journal of Biological Chemistry  2012;288(5):3678-3690.
Background: ATG4 is a cysteine peptidase crucial for macroautophagy.
Results: Gene deletion mutants show that the two ATG4s of Leishmania perform distinct roles, although there is some redundancy.
Conclusion: ATG4s are not individually essential but macroautophagy, a process important in the virulence of the parasite, requires one.
Significance: Highlights the distinct roles of ATG4 isoforms and their importance for autophagy and parasite infectivity.
Macroautophagy in Leishmania, which is important for the cellular remodeling required during differentiation, relies upon the hydrolytic activity of two ATG4 cysteine peptidases (ATG4.1 and ATG4.2). We have investigated the individual contributions of each ATG4 to Leishmania major by generating individual gene deletion mutants (Δatg4.1 and Δatg4.2); double mutants could not be generated, indicating that ATG4 activity is required for parasite viability. Both mutants were viable as promastigotes and infected macrophages in vitro and mice, but Δatg4.2 survived poorly irrespective of infection with promastigotes or amastigotes, whereas this was the case only when promastigotes of Δatg4.1 were used. Promastigotes of Δatg4.2 but not Δatg4.1 were more susceptible than wild type promastigotes to starvation and oxidative stresses, which correlated with increased reactive oxygen species levels and oxidatively damaged proteins in the cells as well as impaired mitochondrial function. The antioxidant N-acetylcysteine reversed this phenotype, reducing both basal and induced autophagy and restoring mitochondrial function, indicating a relationship between reactive oxygen species levels and autophagy. Deletion of ATG4.2 had a more dramatic effect upon autophagy than did deletion of ATG4.1. This phenotype is consistent with a reduced efficiency in the autophagic process in Δatg4.2, possibly due to ATG4.2 having a key role in removal of ATG8 from mature autophagosomes and thus facilitating delivery to the lysosomal network. These findings show that there is a level of functional redundancy between the two ATG4s, and that ATG4.2 appears to be the more important. Moreover, the low infectivity of Δatg4.2 demonstrates that autophagy is important for the virulence of the parasite.
PMCID: PMC3561585  PMID: 23166325
Autophagy; Cysteine Protease; Leishmania; Parasite; Parasite Metabolism; Peptidases; Protease; ATG4
6.  Silibinin, a natural flavonoid, induces autophagy via ROS-dependent mitochondrial dysfunction and loss of ATP involving BNIP3 in human MCF7 breast cancer cells 
Oncology Reports  2015;33(6):2711-2718.
Silibinin, derived from the milk thistle plant (Silybum marianum), has anticancer and chemopreventive properties. Silibinin has been reported to inhibit the growth of various types of cancer cells. However, the mechanisms by which silibinin exerts an anticancer effect are poorly defined. The present study aimed to investigate whether silibinin-induced cell death might be attributed to autophagy and the underlying mechanisms in human MCF7 breast cancer cells. Our results showed that silibinin-induced cell death was greatly abrogated by two specific autophagy inhibitors, 3-methyladenine (3-MA) and bafilomycin-A1 (Baf-A1). In addition, silibinin triggered the conversion of light chain 3 (LC3)-I to LC3-II, promoted the upregulation of Atg12-Atg5 formation, increased Beclin-1 expression, and decreased the Bcl-2 level. Moreover, we noted elevated reactive oxygen species (ROS) generation, concomitant with the dissipation of mitochondrial transmembrane potential (ΔΨm) and a drastic decline in ATP levels following silibinin treatment, which were effectively prevented by the antioxidants, N-acetylcysteine and ascorbic acid. Silibinin stimulated the expression of Bcl-2 adenovirus E1B 19-kDa-interacting protein 3 (BNIP3), a pro-death Bcl-2 family member, and silencing of BNIP3 greatly inhibited silibinin-induced cell death, decreased ROS production, and sustained ΔΨm and ATP levels. Taken together, these findings revealed that silibinin induced autophagic cell death through ROS-dependent mitochondrial dysfunction and ATP depletion involving BNIP3 in MCF7 cells.
PMCID: PMC4431438  PMID: 25891311
mitochondrial membrane potential; reactive oxygen species; silibinin; autophagy; ATP; BNIP3
7.  Autophagy protects from hypoxic injury in C. elegans 
Autophagy  2008;4(8):1034-1041.
Macroautophagy has been implicated in a variety of pathological processes. Hypoxic/ischemic cellular injury is one such process in which autophagy has emerged as an important regulator. In general, autophagy is induced after an hypoxic/ischemic insult; however, whether the induction of autophagy promotes cell death or recovery is controversial and appears to be context dependent. We have developed C. elegans as a genetically tractable model for the study of hypoxic cell injury. Both necrosis and apoptosis are mechanisms of cell death following hypoxia in C. elegans. However, the role of autophagy in hypoxic injury in C. elegans has not been examined. Here, we found that RNAi knockdown of the C. elegans homologs of beclin 1/Atg6 (bec-1) and LC3/Atg8 (lgg-1, lgg-2), and mutation of Atg1 (unc-51) decreased animal survival after a severe hypoxic insult. Acute inhibition of autophagy by the type III phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase inhibitors, 3-methyladenine and Wortmannin, also sensitized animals to hypoxic death. Hypoxia-induced neuronal and myocyte injury as well as necrotic cellular morphology were increased by RNAi knockdown of BEC-1. Hypoxia increased the expression of a marker of autophagosomes in a bec-1-dependent manner. Finally, we found that the hypoxia hypersensitive phenotype of bec-1(RNAi) animals could be blocked by loss-of-function mutations in either the apoptosis or necrosis pathway. These results argue that inhibition of autophagy sensitizes C. elegans and its cells to hypoxic injury and that this sensitization is blocked or circumvented when either of the two major cell death mechanisms is inhibited.
PMCID: PMC3670992  PMID: 18849662
Autophagy; Cell death; Hypoxia; Apoptosis; Necrosis
8.  Autophagic flux determines cell death and survival in response to Apo2L/TRAIL (dulanermin) 
Molecular Cancer  2014;13:70.
Macroautophagy is a catabolic process that can mediate cell death or survival. Apo2 ligand (Apo2L)/tumor necrosis factor-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL) treatment (TR) is known to induce autophagy. Here we investigated whether SQSTM1/p62 (p62) overexpression, as a marker of autophagic flux, was related to aggressiveness of human prostate cancer (PCa) and whether autophagy regulated the treatment response in sensitive but not resistant PCa cell lines.
Immunostaining and immunoblotting analyses of the autophagic markers p62 [in PCa tissue microarrays (TMAs) and PCa cell lines] and LC3 (in PCa cell lines), transmission electron microscopy, and GFP-mCherry-LC3 were used to study autophagy induction and flux. The effect of autophagy inhibition using pharmacologic (3-methyladenine and chloroquine) and genetic [(short hairpin (sh)-mediated knock-down of ATG7 and LAMP2) and small interfering (si)RNA-mediated BECN1 knock-down] approaches on TR-induced cell death was assessed by clonogenic survival, sub-G1 DNA content, and annexinV/PI staining by flow cytometry. Caspase-8 activation was determined by immunoblotting.
We found that increased cytoplasmic expression of p62 was associated with high-grade PCa, indicating that autophagy signaling might be important for survival in high-grade tumors. TR-resistant cells exhibited high autophagic flux, with more efficient clearance of p62-aggregates in four TR-resistant PCa cell lines: C4-2, LNCaP, DU145, and CWRv22.1. In contrast, autophagic flux was low in TR-sensitive PC3 cells, leading to accumulation of p62-aggregates. Pharmacologic (chloroquine or 3-methyladenine) and genetic (shATG7 or shLAMP2) inhibition of autophagy led to cell death in TR-resistant C4-2 cells. shATG7-expressing PC3 cells, were less sensitive to TR-induced cell death whereas those shLAMP2-expressing were as sensitive as shControl-expressing PC3 cells. Inhibition of autophagic flux using chloroquine prevented clearance of p62 aggregates, leading to caspase-8 activation and cell death in C4-2 cells. In PC3 cells, inhibition of autophagy induction prevented p62 accumulation and hence caspase-8 activation.
We show that p62 overexpression correlates with advanced stage human PCa. Pharmacologic and genetic inhibition of autophagy in PCa cell lines indicate that autophagic flux can determine the cellular response to TR by regulating caspase-8 activation. Thus, combining various autophagic inhibitors may have a differential impact on TR-induced cell death.
PMCID: PMC3998041  PMID: 24655592
Autophagy; p62/SQSTM1; Caspase-8; Prostate cancer; Apo2L/TRAIL; Dulanermin
9.  ATG12 Conjugation to ATG3 Regulates Mitochondrial Homeostasis and Cell Death 
Cell  2010;142(4):590-600.
ATG12, an ubiquitin-like modifier required for macroautophagy, has a single known conjugation target, another autophagy regulator called ATG5. Here, we identify ATG3 as a substrate for ATG12 conjugation. ATG3 is the E2-like enzyme necessary for ATG8/LC3 lipidation during autophagy. ATG12-ATG3 complex formation requires ATG7 as the E1 enzyme and ATG3 autocatalytic activity as the E2, resulting in the covalent linkage of ATG12 onto a single lysine on ATG3. Surprisingly, disrupting ATG12 conjugation to ATG3 does not affect starvation-induced autophagy. Rather, the lack of ATG12-ATG3 complex formation produces an expansion in mitochondrial mass and inhibits cell death mediated by mitochondrial pathways. Overall, these results unveil a role for ATG12-ATG3 in mitochondrial homeostasis, and implicate the ATG12 conjugation system in cellular functions distinct from the early steps of autophagosome formation.
PMCID: PMC2925044  PMID: 20723759
10.  Autophagy Protein Atg3 is Essential for Maintaining Mitochondrial Integrity and for Normal Intracellular Development of Toxoplasma gondii Tachyzoites 
PLoS Pathogens  2011;7(12):e1002416.
Autophagy is a cellular process that is highly conserved among eukaryotes and permits the degradation of cellular material. Autophagy is involved in multiple survival-promoting processes. It not only facilitates the maintenance of cell homeostasis by degrading long-lived proteins and damaged organelles, but it also plays a role in cell differentiation and cell development. Equally important is its function for survival in stress-related conditions such as recycling of proteins and organelles during nutrient starvation. Protozoan parasites have complex life cycles and face dramatically changing environmental conditions; whether autophagy represents a critical coping mechanism throughout these changes remains poorly documented. To investigate this in Toxoplasma gondii, we have used TgAtg8 as an autophagosome marker and showed that autophagy and the associated cellular machinery are present and functional in the parasite. In extracellular T. gondii tachyzoites, autophagosomes were induced in response to amino acid starvation, but they could also be observed in culture during the normal intracellular development of the parasites. Moreover, we generated a conditional T. gondii mutant lacking the orthologue of Atg3, a key autophagy protein. TgAtg3-depleted parasites were unable to regulate the conjugation of TgAtg8 to the autophagosomal membrane. The mutant parasites also exhibited a pronounced fragmentation of their mitochondrion and a drastic growth phenotype. Overall, our results show that TgAtg3-dependent autophagy might be regulating mitochondrial homeostasis during cell division and is essential for the normal development of T. gondii tachyzoites.
Author Summary
Autophagy is a catabolic process involved in maintaining cellular homeostasis in eukaryotic cells, while coping with their changing environmental conditions. Mechanistically, it is also a process of considerable complexity involving multiple protein factors and implying numerous protein-protein and protein-membrane interactions. The cellular material to be degraded by autophagy is contained in a membrane-bound compartment called the autophagosome. We have characterised the formation of autophagosomes in the protozoan parasite Toxoplasma gondii by following the relocalisation of autophagosome-bound TgAtg8. Thus, exploiting GFP-TgAtg8 as a marker, we showed that it is a process that is regulated and can be induced artificially by amino acid starvation. Autophagic vesicles were also observed in normally dividing intracellular parasites. Depleting Toxoplasma of the TgAtg3 autophagy protein led to an impairment of TgAtg8 conjugation to the autophagosomal membrane and, at the cellular level, to a fragmentation of the single mitochondrion of the parasite and to a severe growth arrest. We have thus found that TgAtg3-dependent autophagy is essential for normal intracellular development of T. gondii tachyzoites.
PMCID: PMC3228817  PMID: 22144900
11.  NRBF2 regulates macroautophagy as a component of Vps34 Complex I 
The Biochemical journal  2014;461(2):315-322.
Macroautophagy is a physiological cellular response to nutrient stress, which leads to the engulfment of cytosolic contents by a double-walled membrane structure, the phagophore. Phagophores seal to become autophagosomes, which then fuse with lysosomes to deliver their contents for degradation. Macroautophagy is regulated by numerous cellular factors, including the Class III PI3K (phosphoinositide 3-kinase) Vps34 (vacuolar protein sorting 34). The autophagic functions of Vps34 require its recruitment to a complex that includes Vps15, Beclin-1 and Atg14L (autophagy-related 14-like protein) and is known as Vps34 Complex I. We have now identified NRBF2 (nuclear receptor-binding factor 2) as a new member of Vps34 Complex I. NRBF2 binds to complexes that include Vps34, Vps15, Beclin-1 and ATG- 14L, but not the Vps34 Complex II component UVRAG (UV radiation resistance-associated gene). NRBF2 directly interacts with Vps15 via the Vps15 WD40 domain as well as other regions of Vps15. The formation of GFP–LC3 (light chain 3) punctae and PE (phosphatidylethanolamine)-conjugated LC3 (LC3-II) in serum-starved cells was inhibited by NRBF2 knockdown in the absence and presence of lysosomal inhibitors, and p62 levels were increased. Thus NRBF2 plays a critical role in the induction of starvation-induced autophagy as a specific member of Vps34 Complex I.
PMCID: PMC4180102  PMID: 24785657
autophagy; human vacuolar protein sorting 34 (hVps34); macroautophagy; mass spectrometry; nuclear receptor-binding factor 2 (NRBF2); vacuolar protein sorting 34 (Vps34); vacuolar protein sorting 15 (Vps15)
12.  Heterologous Expression of ATG8c from Soybean Confers Tolerance to Nitrogen Deficiency and Increases Yield in Arabidopsis 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(5):e37217.
Nitrogen is an essential element for plant growth and yield. Improving Nitrogen Use Efficiency (NUE) of crops could potentially reduce the application of chemical fertilizer and alleviate environmental damage. To identify new NUE genes is therefore an important task in molecular breeding. Macroautophagy (autophagy) is an intracellular process in which damaged or obsolete cytoplasmic components are encapsulated in double membraned vesicles termed autophagosomes, then delivered to the vacuole for degradation and nutrient recycling. One of the core components of autophagosome formation, ATG8, has been shown to directly mediate autophagosome expansion, and the transcript of which is highly inducible upon starvation. Therefore, we postulated that certain homologs of Saccharomyces cerevisiae ATG8 (ScATG8) from crop species could have potential for NUE crop breeding. A soybean (Glycine max, cv. Zhonghuang-13) ATG8, GmATG8c, was selected from the 11 family members based on transcript analysis upon nitrogen deprivation. GmATG8c could partially complement the yeast atg8 mutant. Constitutive expression of GmATG8c in soybean callus cells not only enhanced nitrogen starvation tolerance of the cells but accelerated the growth of the calli. Transgenic Arabidopsis over-expressing GmATG8c performed better under extended nitrogen and carbon starvation conditions. Meanwhile, under optimum growth conditions, the transgenic plants grew faster, bolted earlier, produced larger primary and axillary inflorescences, eventually produced more seeds than the wild-type. In average, the yield was improved by 12.9%. We conclude that GmATG8c may serve as an excellent candidate for breeding crops with enhanced NUE and better yield.
PMCID: PMC3358335  PMID: 22629371
13.  Direct induction of autophagy by Atg1 inhibits cell growth and induces apoptotic cell death 
Current biology : CB  2007;17(1):1-11.
To survive starvation and other forms of stress, eukaryotic cells undergo a lysosomal process of cytoplasmic degradation known as autophagy. Autophagy has been implicated in a number of cellular and developmental processes, including cell growth control and programmed cell death. However, direct evidence of a causal role for autophagy in these processes is lacking, due in part to the pleiotropic effects of signaling molecules such as TOR that regulate autophagy. Here, we circumvent this difficulty by directly manipulating autophagy rates in Drosophila through the autophagy-specific protein kinase Atg1.
We find that overexpression of Atg1 is sufficient to induce high levels of autophagy, the first such demonstration among wild type Atg proteins. In contrast to findings in yeast, induction of autophagy by Atg1 is dependent on its kinase activity. We find that cells with high levels of Atg1-induced autophagy are rapidly eliminated, demonstrating that autophagy is capable of inducing cell death. However, this cell death is caspase dependent and displays DNA fragmentation, suggesting that autophagy represents an alternative induction of apoptosis, rather than a distinct form of cell death. In addition, we demonstrate that Atg1-induced autophagy strongly inhibits cell growth, and that Atg1 mutant cells have a relative growth advantage under conditions of reduced TOR signaling. Finally, we show that Atg1 expression results in negative feedback on the activity of TOR itself.
Our results reveal a central role for Atg1 in mounting a coordinated autophagic response, and demonstrate that autophagy has the capacity to induce cell death. Furthermore, this work identifies autophagy as a critical mechanism by which inhibition of TOR signaling leads to reduced cell growth.
PMCID: PMC1865528  PMID: 17208179
autophagy; cell growth; programmed cell death; Target of Rapamycin (TOR); Drosophila
14.  Autophagy is involved in T cell death after binding of HIV-1 envelope proteins to CXCR4 
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  2006;116(8):2161-2172.
HIV-1 envelope glycoproteins (Env), expressed at the cell surface, induce apoptosis of uninfected CD4+ T cells, contributing to the development of AIDS. Here we demonstrate that, independently of HIV replication, transfected or HIV-infected cells that express Env induced autophagy and accumulation of Beclin 1 in uninfected CD4+ T lymphocytes via CXCR4. The same phenomena occurred in a T cell line and in transfected HEK.293 cells that expressed both wild-type CXCR4 and a truncated form of CD4 that is unable to bind the lymphocyte-specific protein kinase Lck. Env-mediated autophagy is required to trigger CD4+ T cell apoptosis since blockade of autophagy at different steps, by either drugs (3-methyladenine and bafilomycin A1) or siRNAs specific for Beclin 1/Atg6 and Atg7 genes, totally inhibited the apoptotic process. Furthermore, CD4+ T cells still underwent Env-mediated cell death with autophagic features when apoptosis was inhibited. These results suggest that HIV-infected cells can induce autophagy in bystander CD4+ T lymphocytes through contact of Env with CXCR4, leading to apoptotic cell death, a mechanism most likely contributing to immunodeficiency.
PMCID: PMC1523410  PMID: 16886061
15.  The thiazole derivative CPTH6 impairs autophagy 
Cell Death & Disease  2013;4(3):e524-.
We have previously demonstrated that the thiazole derivative 3-methylcyclopentylidene-[4-(4′-chlorophenyl)thiazol-2-yl]hydrazone (CPTH6) induces apoptosis and cell cycle arrest in human leukemia cells. The aim of this study was to evaluate whether CPTH6 is able to affect autophagy. By using several human tumor cell lines with different origins we demonstrated that CPTH6 treatment induced, in a dose-dependent manner, a significant increase in autophagic features, as imaged by electron microscopy, immunoblotting analysis of membrane-bound form of microtubule-associated protein 1 light chain 3 (LC3B-II) levels and by appearance of typical LC3B-II-associated autophagosomal puncta. To gain insights into the molecular mechanisms of elevated markers of autophagy induced by CPTH6 treatment, we silenced the expression of several proteins acting at different steps of autophagy. We found that the effect of CPTH6 on autophagy developed through a noncanonical mechanism that did not require beclin-1-dependent nucleation, but involved Atg-7-mediated elongation of autophagosomal membranes. Strikingly, a combined treatment of CPTH6 with late-stage autophagy inhibitors, such as chloroquine and bafilomycin A1, demonstrates that under basal condition CPTH6 reduces autophagosome turnover through an impairment of their degradation pathway, rather than enhancing autophagosome formation, as confirmed by immunofluorescence experiments. According to these results, CPTH6-induced enhancement of autophagy substrate p62 and NBR1 protein levels confirms a blockage of autophagic cargo degradation. In addition, CPTH6 inhibited autophagosome maturation and compounds having high structural similarities with CPTH6 produced similar effects on the autophagic pathway. Finally, the evidence that CPTH6 treatment decreased α-tubulin acetylation and failed to increase autophagic markers in cells in which acetyltransferase ATAT1 expression was silenced indicates a possible role of α-tubulin acetylation in CPTH6-induced alteration in autophagy. Overall, CPTH6 could be a valuable agent for the treatment of cancer and should be further studied as a possible antineoplastic agent.
PMCID: PMC3613831  PMID: 23470531
autophagy; CPTH6; melanoma; leukemia; lung cancer
Hepatology (Baltimore, Md.)  2010;52(1):266-277.
The function of the lysosomal degradative pathway of autophagy in cellular injury is unclear as findings in nonhepatic cells have implicated autophagy as both a mediator of cell death and as a survival response. Autophagic function is impaired in steatotic and aged hepatocytes, suggesting that in these settings hepatocellular injury may be altered by the decrease in autophagy. To delineate the specific function of autophagy in the hepatocyte injury response, the effects of menadione-induced oxidative stress were examined in the RALA255-10G rat hepatocyte line when macroautophagy was inhibited by an shRNA-mediated knockdown of the autophagy gene atg5. Inhibition of macroautophagy sensitized cells to apoptotic and necrotic death from normally nontoxic concentrations of menadione. Inhibition of macroautophagy led to overactivation of the c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK)/c-Jun signaling pathway that induced cell death. Death occurred from activation of the mitochondrial death pathway with cellular ATP depletion, mitochondrial cytochrome c release and caspase activation. Sensitization to death from menadione occurred despite up regulation of other forms of autophagy in compensation for the loss of macroautophagy. Chaperone-mediated autophagy (CMA) also mediated resistance to menadione as CMA inhibition sensitized cells to death from menadione through a mechanism different from that of a loss of macroautophagy as death occurred in the absence of JNK/c-Jun overactivation or ATP depletion.
Hepatocyte resistance to injury from menadione-induced oxidative stress is mediated by distinct functions of both macroautophagy and CMA, indicating that impaired function of either form of autophagy may promote oxidant-induced liver injury.
PMCID: PMC2924621  PMID: 20578144
apoptosis; necrosis; menadione; mitochondria; c-Jun N-terminal kinase
17.  ATG5 Is Essential for ATG8-Dependent Autophagy and Mitochondrial Homeostasis in Leishmania major 
PLoS Pathogens  2012;8(5):e1002695.
Macroautophagy has been shown to be important for the cellular remodelling required for Leishmania differentiation. We now demonstrate that L. major contains a functional ATG12-ATG5 conjugation system, which is required for ATG8-dependent autophagosome formation. Nascent autophagosomes were found commonly associated with the mitochondrion. L. major mutants lacking ATG5 (Δatg5) were viable as promastigotes but were unable to form autophagosomes, had morphological abnormalities including a much reduced flagellum, were less able to differentiate and had greatly reduced virulence to macrophages and mice. Analyses of the lipid metabolome of Δatg5 revealed marked elevation of phosphatidylethanolamines (PE) in comparison to wild type parasites. The Δatg5 mutants also had increased mitochondrial mass but reduced mitochondrial membrane potential and higher levels of reactive oxygen species. These findings indicate that the lack of ATG5 and autophagy leads to perturbation of the phospholipid balance in the mitochondrion, possibly through ablation of membrane use and conjugation of mitochondrial PE to ATG8 for autophagosome biogenesis, resulting in a dysfunctional mitochondrion with impaired oxidative ability and energy generation. The overall result of this is reduced virulence.
Author Summary
Leishmaniasis is a disease of humans that is of major significance throughout many parts of the world. It is caused by the protozoan parasite Leishmania and mammals are infected through the bite of a sand fly in which the parasite develops. Parasite remodelling crucial for generation of the human-infective forms is aided by the catabolic process known as autophagy in which cell material is packaged within organelles called autophagosomes and subsequently broken down in the digestive lysosomal compartment. Here we show that autophagy in Leishmania requires the coordinated actions of two pathways, one of which involves a protein called ATG5. We have generated parasite mutants lacking this protein and shown that ATG5 is required for both autophagosome formation and also maintenance of a fully functional mitochondrion. The mutants lacking ATG5 have increased mitochondrial mass and phospholipid content, high levels of oxidants and reduced membrane potential, all being hallmarks of a dysfunctional mitochondrion with impaired ability for energy generation. Our results have thus revealed that a functional autophagic pathway is crucial for phospholipid homeostasis and mitochondrial function in the parasite and important for the parasite's differentiation, infectivity and virulence to its mammalian host.
PMCID: PMC3355087  PMID: 22615560
18.  Apoptotic and autophagic responses to photodynamic therapy in 1c1c7 murine hepatoma cells 
Autophagy  2011;7(9):979-984.
Photodynamic therapy (PDT) is a process that can induce apoptosis, autophagy or both depending on the cell phenotype. Apoptosis is a pathway to cell death while autophagy can protect from photokilling or act as a death pathway. In a previous study, we reported a cytoprotective effect of autophagy in murine leukemia cell lines where both autophagy and apoptosis occur within minutes after irradiation of photosensitized cells. In this study, we examined the effects of mitochondrial photodamage catalyzed by low (≤1 µM) concentrations of the photosensitizing agent termed benzoporphyrin derivative (BPD, Verteporfin) on murine hepatoma 1c1c7 cells. Apoptosis was not observed until several hours after irradiation of photosensitized cells. Autophagy was clearly cytoprotective since PDT efficacy was significantly enhanced in a knockdown sub-line (KD) in which the level of a critical autophagy protein (Atg7) was markedly reduced. This result indicates that autophagy can protect from phototoxicity even when apoptosis is substantially delayed. Much higher concentrations (≥10 µM) of BPD had previously been shown to inhibit autophagosome formation. Phototoxicity studies performed with 10 µM BPD and a proportionally reduced light dose were consistent with the absence of an autophagic process in wild-type (WT) cells under these conditions.
PMCID: PMC3210313  PMID: 21555918
apoptosis; autophagy; benzoporphyrin; photodynamic
19.  Dissecting the pathways that destabilize mutant p53 
Cell Cycle  2013;12(7):1022-1029.
One fundamental feature of mutant forms of p53 consists in their accumulation at high levels in tumors. At least in the case of neomorphic p53 mutations, which acquire oncogenic activity, stabilization is a driving force for tumor progression. It is well documented that p53 mutants are resistant to proteasome-dependent degradation compared with wild-type p53, but the exact identity of the pathways that affect mutant p53 stability is still debated. We have recently shown that macroautophagy (autophagy) provides a route for p53 mutant degradation during restriction of glucose. Here we further show that in basal conditions of growth, inhibition of autophagy with chemical inhibitors or by downregulation of the essential autophagic genes ATG1/Ulk1, Beclin-1 or ATG5, results in p53 mutant stabilization. Conversely, overexpression of Beclin-1 or ATG1/Ulk1 leads to p53 mutant depletion. Furthermore, we found that in many cell lines, prolonged inhibition of the proteasome does not stabilize mutant p53 but leads to its autophagic-mediated degradation. Therefore, we conclude that autophagy is a key mechanism for regulating the stability of several p53 mutants. We discuss plausible mechanisms involved in this newly identified degradation pathway as well as the possible role played by autophagy during tumor evolution driven by mutant p53.
PMCID: PMC3646859  PMID: 23466706
p53; mutant; mutations; autophagy; proteasome; ubiquitin tumor; cancer
20.  Gangliosides induce autophagic cell death in astrocytes 
British Journal of Pharmacology  2010;159(3):586-603.
Background and purpose:
Gangliosides, sialic acid-containing glycosphingolipids, abundant in brain, are involved in neuronal function and disease, but the precise molecular mechanisms underlying their physiological or pathological activities are poorly understood. In this study, the pathological role of gangliosides in the extracellular milieu with respect to glial cell death and lipid raft/membrane disruption was investigated.
Experimental approach:
We determined the effect of gangliosides on astrocyte death or survival using primary astrocyte cultures and astrocytoma/glioma cell lines as a model. Signalling pathways of ganglioside-induced autophagic cell death of astrocytes were examined using pharmacological inhibitors and biochemical and genetic assays.
Key results:
Gangliosides induced autophagic cell death in based on the following observations. Incubation of the cells with a mixture of gangliosides increased a punctate distribution of fluorescently labelled microtubule-associated protein 1 light chain 3 (GFP-LC3), the ratio of LC3-II/LC3-I and LC3 flux. Gangliosides also increased the formation of autophagic vacuoles as revealed by monodansylcadaverine staining. Ganglioside-induced cell death was inhibited by either a knockdown of beclin-1/Atg-6 or Atg-7 gene expression or by 3-methyladenine, an inhibitor of autophagy. Reactive oxygen species (ROS) were involved in ganglioside-induced autophagic cell death of astrocytes, because gangliosides induced ROS production and ROS scavengers decreased autophagic cell death. In addition, lipid rafts played an important role in ganglioside-induced astrocyte death.
Conclusions and implications:
Gangliosides released under pathological conditions may induce autophagic cell death of astrocytes, identifying a neuropathological role for gangliosides.
PMCID: PMC2828023  PMID: 20067473
ganglioside; autophagy; astrocytes; reactive oxygen species; mTOR
21.  Beclin 1-Independent Pathway of Damage-Induced Mitophagy and Autophagic Stress: Implications for Neurodegeneration and Cell Death 
Autophagy  2007;3(6):663-666.
Growing evidence supports an active role for dysregulated macroautophagy (autophagic stress) in neuronal cell death and neurodegeneration. Alterations in mitochondrial function and dynamics are also strongly implicated in neurodegenerative diseases. Interestingly, whereas the core autophagy machinery is evolutionarily conserved and shared among constitutive and induced or selective autophagy, recent studies implicate distinct mechanisms regulating mitochondrial autophagy (mitophagy) in response to general autophagic stimuli. Little is known about pathways regulating selective, damage-induced mitophagy. We found that the parkinsonian neurotoxin MPP+ induces autophagy and mitochondrial degradation that is inhibited by siRNA knockdown of autophagy proteins Atg5, Atg7 and Atg8, but occurs independently of Beclin 1, a component of the class III (PIK3C3/Vps34) phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K) complex. Instead, MPP+-induced mitophagy is dependent upon MAPK signaling. Interestingly, all treatments that inhibited autophagy also conferred protection from MPP+-induced cell death. A prior human tissue study further supports a role for ERK/MAPK-regulated autophagy in Parkinson’s and Lewy body diseases. As competition for limiting amounts of Beclin 1 may serve to prevent harmful overactivation of autophagy, understanding mechanisms that bypass or complement a requirement for PI3K-Beclin 1 activity could lead to strategies to modulate autophagic stress in injured or degenerating neurons.
PMCID: PMC2779565  PMID: 17622797
autophagy; mitochondria; Parkinson’s disease; mitogen activated protein kinases; neuronal cell death; oxidative stress
22.  Inhibition of mTOR-Dependent Autophagy Sensitizes Leukemic Cells to Cytarabine-Induced Apoptotic Death 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(4):e94374.
The present study investigated the role of autophagy, a cellular self-digestion process, in the cytotoxicity of antileukemic drug cytarabine towards human leukemic cell lines (REH, HL-60, MOLT-4) and peripheral blood mononuclear cells from leukemic patients. The induction of autophagy was confirmed by acridine orange staining of intracellular acidic vesicles, electron microscopy visualization of autophagic vacuoles, as well as by the increase in autophagic proteolysis and autophagic flux, demonstrated by immunoblot analysis of p62 downregulation and LC3-I conversion to autophagosome-associated LC3-II in the presence of proteolysis inhibitors, respectively. Moreover, the expression of autophagy-related genes Atg4, Atg5 and Atg7 was stimulated by cytarabine in REH cells. Cytarabine reduced the phosphorylation of the major negative regulator of autophagy, mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR), and its downstream target p70S6 kinase in REH cells, which was associated with downregulation of mTOR activator Akt and activation of extracellular signal- regulated kinase. Cytarabine had no effect on the activation of mTOR inhibitor AMP-activated protein kinase. Leucine, an mTOR activator, reduced both cytarabine-induced autophagy and cytotoxicity. Accordingly, pharmacological downregulation of autophagy with bafilomycin A1 and chloroquine, or RNA interference-mediated knockdown of LC3β or p62, markedly increased oxidative stress, mitochondrial depolarization, caspase activation and subsequent DNA fragmentation and apoptotic death in cytarabine-treated REH cells. Cytarabine also induced mTOR-dependent cytoprotective autophagy in HL-60 and MOLT-4 leukemic cell lines, as well as primary leukemic cells, but not normal leukocytes. These data suggest that the therapeutic efficiency of cytarabine in leukemic patients could be increased by the inhibition of the mTOR-dependent autophagic response.
PMCID: PMC3979773  PMID: 24714637
23.  The incredible ULKs 
Macroautophagy (commonly abbreviated as autophagy) is an evolutionary conserved lysosome-directed vesicular trafficking pathway in eukaryotic cells that mediates the lysosomal degradation of intracellular components. The cytoplasmic cargo is initially enclosed by a specific double membrane vesicle, termed the autophagosome. By this means, autophagy either helps to remove damaged organelles, long-lived proteins and protein aggregates, or serves as a recycling mechanism for molecular building blocks. Autophagy was once invented by unicellular organisms to compensate the fluctuating external supply of nutrients. In higher eukaryotes, it is strongly enhanced under various stress conditions, such as nutrient and growth factor deprivation or DNA damage. The serine/threonine kinase Atg1 was the first identified autophagy-related gene (ATG) product in yeast. The corresponding nematode homolog UNC-51, however, has additional neuronal functions. Vertebrate genomes finally encode five closely related kinases, of which UNC-51-like kinase 1 (Ulk1) and Ulk2 are both involved in the regulation of autophagy and further neuron-specific vesicular trafficking processes. This review will mainly focus on the vertebrate Ulk1/2-Atg13-FIP200 protein complex, its function in autophagy initiation, its evolutionary descent from the yeast Atg1-Atg13-Atg17 complex, as well as the additional non-autophagic functions of its components. Since the rapid nutrient- and stress-dependent cellular responses are mainly mediated by serine/threonine phosphorylation, it will summarize our current knowledge about the relevant upstream signaling pathways and the altering phosphorylation status within this complex during autophagy induction.
PMCID: PMC3330011  PMID: 22413737
Atg1; Atg13; Atg17; UNC-51; EPG-1; Ulk1; Ulk2; FIP200; Atg101; Autophagy; Serine/threonine phosphorylation
24.  Autophagy Defect Is Associated with Low Glucose-Induced Apoptosis in 661W Photoreceptor Cells 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(9):e74162.
Glucose is an important metabolic substrate of the retina and diabetic patients have to maintain a strict normoglycemia to avoid diabetes secondary effects, including cardiovascular disease, nephropathy, neuropathy and retinopathy. Others and we recently demonstrated the potential role of hypoglycemia in diabetic retinopathy. We showed acute hypoglycemia to induce retinal cell death both in vivo during an hyperinsulinemic/hypoglycemic clamp and in vitro in 661W photoreceptor cells cultured at low glucose concentration. In the present study, we showed low glucose to induce a decrease of BCL2 and BCL-XL anti-apoptotic proteins expression, leading to an increase of free pro-apoptotic BAX. In parallel, we showed that, in retinal cells, low glucose-induced apoptosis is involved in the process of autophagosomes formation through the AMPK/RAPTOR/mTOR pathway. Moreover, the decrease of LAMP2a expression led to a defect in the autophagosome/lysosome fusion process. Specific inhibition of autophagy, either by 3-methyladenine or by down-regulation of ATG5 or ATG7 proteins expression, increased caspase 3 activation and 661W cell death. We show that low glucose modifies the delicate equilibrium between apoptosis and autophagy. Cells struggled against low nutrient condition-induced apoptosis by starting an autophagic process, which led to cell death when inhibited. We conclude that autophagy defect is associated with low glucose-induced 661W cells death that could play a role in diabetic retinopathy. These results could modify the way of addressing negative effects of hypoglycemia. Short-term modulation of autophagy could be envisioned to treat diabetic patients in order to avoid secondary complications of the disease.
PMCID: PMC3774611  PMID: 24066113
25.  BH3-only protein BIK induces caspase-independent cell death with autophagic features in Bcl-2 null cells 
Oncogene  2007;27(10):1366-1375.
The BH3-only protein BIK normally induces apoptotic cell death. Here, we have investigated the role of BCL-2 in BIK-induced cell death using Bcl-2+/+ and Bcl-2−/− mouse embryo fibroblasts. Ectopic expression of BIK in Bcl-2−/− cells resulted in enhanced cell death compared to Bcl-2+/+ cells. In these cells, while caspase-8 was activated, there was no significant activation of caspase-9 and 3. There was no detectable mitochondrial to cytosolic release of cytochrome-c. However, there was significant redistribution of AIF from mitochondria to the nucleus. The extent of BIK-induced cell death was augmented by treatment with the pancaspase inhibitor, zVAD-fmk. The Bcl-2 null cells expressing BIK exhibited autophagic features such as cytosolic vacuoles, punctate distribution of LC3 and enhanced expression of Beclin-1. The survival of BIK-expressing Bcl-2−/− cells was enhanced in the presence of PI3 kinase inhibitors 3-methyladenine and Wortmannin and also by depletion of Atg5 and Beclin-1. Death of BIK-expressing Bcl-2−/− cells treated with zVAD-fmk was increased under caspase-8 depletion. Our results suggest enhanced expression of BIK in the Bcl-2 deficient cells leads to cell death with autophagic features and the extent of such cell death could be increased by inhibition of caspases.
PMCID: PMC2928058  PMID: 17873911
BIK; Bcl-2; autophagy; Beclin-1; LC3

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