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1.  Activation of the macroautophagic system in scrapie-infected experimental animals and human genetic prion diseases 
Autophagy  2012;8(11):1604-1620.
Macroautophagy is an important process for removing misfolded and aggregated protein in cells, the dysfunction of which has been directly linked to an increasing number of neurodegenerative disorders. However, the details of macroautophagy in prion diseases remain obscure. Here we demonstrated that in the terminal stages of scrapie strain 263K-infected hamsters and human genetic prion diseases, the microtubule-associated protein 1 light chain 3 (LC3) was converted from the cytosolic form to the autophagosome-bound membrane form. Macroautophagy substrate sequestosome 1 (SQSTM1) and polyubiquitinated proteins were downregulated in the brains of sick individuals, indicating enhanced macroautophagic protein degradation. The levels of mechanistic target of rapamycin (MTOR) and phosphorylated MTOR (p-MTOR) were significantly decreased, which implies that this enhancement of the macroautophagic response is likely through the MTOR pathway which is a negative regulator for the initiation of macroautophagy. Dynamic assays of the autophagic system in the brains of scrapie experimental hamsters after inoculation showed that alterations of the autophagic system appeared along with the deposits of PrPSc in the infected brains. Immunofluorescent assays revealed specific staining of autophagosomes in neurons that were not colocalized with deposits of PrPSc in the brains of scrapie infected hamsters, however, autophagosome did colocalize with PrPSc in a prion-infected cell line after treatment with bafilomycin A1. These results suggest that activation of macroautophagy in brains is a disease-correlative phenomenon in prion diseases.
PMCID: PMC3494590  PMID: 22874564
transmissible spongiform encephalopathies; autophagy; neurodegenerative diseases
2.  Protein quality control during aging involves recruitment of the macroautophagy pathway by BAG3 
The EMBO Journal  2009;28(7):889-901.
The Hsc/Hsp70 co-chaperones of the BAG (Bcl-2-associated athanogene) protein family are modulators of protein quality control. We examined the specific roles of BAG1 and BAG3 in protein degradation during the aging process. We show that BAG1 and BAG3 regulate proteasomal and macroautophagic pathways, respectively, for the degradation of polyubiquitinated proteins. Moreover, using models of cellular aging, we find that a switch from BAG1 to BAG3 determines that aged cells use more intensively the macroautophagic system for turnover of polyubiquitinated proteins. This increased macroautophagic flux is regulated by BAG3 in concert with the ubiquitin-binding protein p62/SQSTM1. The BAG3/BAG1 ratio is also elevated in neurons during aging of the rodent brain, where, consistent with a higher macroautophagy activity, we find increased levels of the autophagosomal marker LC3-II as well as a higher cathepsin activity. We conclude that the BAG3-mediated recruitment of the macroautophagy pathway is an important adaptation of the protein quality control system to maintain protein homeostasis in the presence of an enhanced pro-oxidant and aggregation-prone milieu characteristic of aging.
PMCID: PMC2647772  PMID: 19229298
BAG1; p62; proteasome; SQSTM1; ubiquitination
3.  Macroautophagy Is Not Directly Involved in the Metabolism of Amyloid Precursor Protein* 
The Journal of Biological Chemistry  2010;285(48):37415-37426.
Alterations in the metabolism of amyloid precursor protein (APP) are believed to play a central role in Alzheimer disease pathogenesis. Burgeoning data indicate that APP is proteolytically processed in endosomal-autophagic-lysosomal compartments. In this study, we used both in vivo and in vitro paradigms to determine whether alterations in macroautophagy affect APP metabolism. Three mouse models of glycosphingolipid storage diseases, namely Niemann-Pick type C1, GM1 gangliosidosis, and Sandhoff disease, had mTOR-independent increases in the autophagic vacuole (AV)-associated protein, LC3-II, indicative of impaired lysosomal flux. APP C-terminal fragments (APP-CTFs) were also increased in brains of the three mouse models; however, discrepancies between LC3-II and APP-CTFs were seen between primary (GM1 gangliosidosis and Sandhoff disease) and secondary (Niemann-Pick type C1) lysosomal storage models. APP-CTFs were proportionately higher than LC3-II in cerebellar regions of GM1 gangliosidosis and Sandhoff disease, although LC3-II increased before APP-CTFs in brains of NPC1 mice. Endogenous murine Aβ40 from RIPA-soluble extracts was increased in brains of all three mice. The in vivo relationship between AV and APP-CTF accumulation was also seen in cultured neurons treated with agents that impair primary (chloroquine and leupeptin + pepstatin) and secondary (U18666A and vinblastine) lysosomal flux. However, Aβ secretion was unaffected by agents that induced autophagy (rapamycin) or impaired AV clearance, and LC3-II-positive AVs predominantly co-localized with degradative LAMP-1-positive lysosomes. These data suggest that neuronal macroautophagy does not directly regulate APP metabolism but highlights the important anti-amyloidogenic role of lysosomal proteolysis in post-secretase APP-CTF catabolism.
PMCID: PMC2988347  PMID: 20864542
Alzheimer Disease; Amyloid; Autophagy; Endocytosis; Lysosomal Storage Disease; Lysosomes; Neurobiology; Neuron; Secretases; Storage Diseases
4.  Replication of Brucella abortus and Brucella melitensis in fibroblasts does not require Atg5-dependent macroautophagy 
BMC Microbiology  2014;14(1):223.
Several intracellular bacterial pathogens have evolved subtle strategies to subvert vesicular trafficking pathways of their host cells to avoid killing and to replicate inside the cells. Brucellae are Gram-negative facultative intracellular bacteria that are responsible for brucellosis, a worldwide extended chronic zoonosis. Following invasion, Brucella abortus is found in a vacuole that interacts first with various endosomal compartments and then with endoplasmic reticulum sub-compartments. Brucella establishes its replication niche in ER-derived vesicles. In the past, it has been proposed that B. abortus passed through the macroautophagy pathway before reaching its niche of replication. However, recent experiments provided evidence that the classical macroautophagy pathway was not involved in the intracellular trafficking and the replication of B. abortus in bone marrow-derived macrophages and in HeLa cells. In contrast, another study showed that macroautophagy favoured the survival and the replication of Brucella melitensis in infected RAW264.7 macrophages. This raises the possibility that B. abortus and B. melitensis followed different intracellular pathways before replicating. In the present work, we have addressed this issue by comparing the replication rate of B. abortus and B. melitensis in embryonic fibroblasts derived from wild-type and Atg5−/− mice, Atg5 being a core component of the canonical macroautophagic pathway.
Our results indicate that both B. abortus S2308 and B. melitensis 16M strains are able to invade and replicate in Atg5-deficient fibroblasts, suggesting that the canonical Atg5-dependent macroautophagic pathway is dispensable for Brucella replication. The number of viable bacteria was even slightly higher in Atg5−/− fibroblasts than in wild-type fibroblasts. This increase could be due to a more efficient uptake or to a better survival rate of bacteria before the beginning of the replication in Atg5-deficient cells as compared to wild-type cells. Moreover, our data show that the infection with B. abortus or with B. melitensis does not stimulate neither the conversion of LC3-I to LC3-II nor the membrane recruitment of LC3 onto the BCV.
Our study suggests that like Brucella abortus, Brucella melitensis does not subvert the canonical macroautophagy to reach its replicative niche or to stimulate its replication.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12866-014-0223-5) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4159544  PMID: 25179110
Brucella abortus; Brucella melitensis; Intracellular trafficking; Replication; Macroautophagy; Atg5
5.  The selective macroautophagic degradation of aggregated proteins requires the phosphatidylinositol 3-phosphate binding protein Alfy 
Molecular cell  2010;38(2):265-279.
There is growing evidence that macroautophagic cargo is not limited to bulk cytosol in response to starvation, and can occur selectively for substrates including aggregated proteins. It remains unclear, however, if starvation-induced and selective macroautophagy share identical adapter molecules to capture their cargo. Here we report that Alfy, a phosphatidylinositol 3-phosphate binding protein, is central to the selective elimination of aggregated proteins. We report that the loss of Alfy inhibits the clearance of inclusions, with little to no effect on the starvation response. Alfy is recruited to intracellular inclusions and scaffolds a complex between p62(SQSTM1)-positive proteins and the autophagic effectors Atg5, Atg12, Atg16L and LC3. Alfy overexpression leads to elimination of aggregates in an Atg5-dependent manner, and likewise, to protection in a neuronal and Drosophila model of polyglutamine toxicity. We propose that Alfy plays a key role in selective macroautophagy, by bridging cargo to the molecular machinery that builds autophagosomes.
PMCID: PMC2867245  PMID: 20417604
6.  Increased hippocampal accumulation of autophagosomes predicts short-term recognition memory impairment in aged mice 
Age  2011;34(2):305-316.
Constitutive macroautophagy involved in the turnover of defective long-lived proteins and organelles is crucial for neuronal homeostasis. We hypothesized that macroautophagic dysregulation in selective brain regions was associated with memory impairment in aged mice. We used the single-trial object recognition test to measure short-term memory in 18 aged mice compared to 22 young mice and employed immunohistochemistry to assess cellular distribution of proteins involved in the selective degradation of ubiquitinated proteins via macroautophagy. Values of the discrimination ratio (DR, a measure of short-term recognition memory performance) in aged mice were significantly lower than those in young mice (median, 0.54 vs. 0.67; p = 0.005, U test). Almost exclusively in aged mice, there were clusters of puncta immunoreactive for microtubule-associated protein 1 light chain 3 (LC3), ubiquitin- and LC3-binding protein p62, and ubiquitin in neuronal processes predominantly in the hippocampal formation, olfactory bulb/tubercle, and cerebellar cortex. The hippocampal burden of clustered puncta immunoreactive for LC3 and p62 exhibited inverse linear correlations with DR in aged mice (ρ = −0.48 and −0.55, p = 0.044 and 0.018, respectively, Spearman’s rank correlation). These findings suggest that increased accumulation of autophagosomes within neuronal processes in selective brain regions is characteristic of aging. The dysregulation of macroautophagy can adversely affect the turnover of aggregate-prone proteins and defective organelles, which may contribute to memory impairment in aged mice.
PMCID: PMC3312638  PMID: 21431350
Autophagy; Brain aging; MAP1LC3; Object recognition test; p62; Ubiquitin
7.  A Late Form of Nucleophagy in Saccharomyces cerevisiae 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(6):e40013.
Autophagy encompasses several processes by which cytosol and organelles can be delivered to the vacuole/lysosome for breakdown and recycling. We sought to investigate autophagy of the nucleus (nucleophagy) in the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae by employing genetically encoded fluorescent reporters. The use of such a nuclear reporter, n-Rosella, proved the basis of robust assays based on either following its accumulation (by confocal microscopy), or degradation (by immunoblotting), within the vacuole. We observed the delivery of n-Rosella to the vacuole only after prolonged periods of nitrogen starvation. Dual labeling of cells with Nvj1p-EYFP, a nuclear membrane reporter of piecemeal micronucleophagy of the nucleus (PMN), and the nucleoplasm-targeted NAB35-DsRed.T3 allowed us to detect PMN soon after the commencement of nitrogen starvation whilst delivery to the vacuole of the nucleoplasm reporter was observed only after prolonged periods of nitrogen starvation. This later delivery of nuclear components to the vacuole has been designated LN (late nucleophagy). Only a very few cells showed simultaneous accumulation of both reporters (Nvj1p-EYFP and NAB35-DsRed.T3) in the vacuole. We determined, therefore, that delivery of the two respective nuclear reporters to the vacuole is temporally and spatially separated. Furthermore, our data suggest that LN is mechanistically distinct from PMN because it can occur in nvj1Δ and vac8Δ cells, and does not require ATG11. Nevertheless, a subset of the components of the core macroautophagic machinery is required for LN as it is efficiently inhibited in null mutants of several autophagy-related genes (ATG) specifying such components. Moreover, the inhibition of LN in some mutants is accompanied by alterations in nuclear morphology.
PMCID: PMC3386919  PMID: 22768199
8.  Systematic evaluation of objective functions for predicting intracellular fluxes in Escherichia coli 
The in vivo distribution of metabolic fluxes in Escherichia coli can be predicted from optimality principles At least two different sets of optimality principles govern the operation of the metabolic network under different environmental conditionsMetabolism during unlimited growth on glucose in batch culture is best described by the nonlinear maximization of ATP yield per unit of flux
Based on a long history of biochemical and lately genomic research, metabolic networks, in particular microbial ones, are among the best characterized cellular networks. Most components (genes, proteins and metabolites) and their interactions are known. This topological knowledge of the reaction stoichiometry allows to construct metabolic models up to the level of genome scale (Price et al, 2004). Experimentally, sophisticated 13C-tracer-based methodologies were developed that enable tracking of the intracellular flux traffic through the reaction network (Sauer, 2006). With the accumulation of such experimental flux data, the question arises why a particular distribution of flux within the network is realized and not one of many alternatives?
Here, we address the question whether the intracellular flux state can be predicted from optimality principles, with the underlying rational that evolution might have optimized metabolic operation toward particular objectives or combinations of multiple objectives. For this purpose, we performed a systematic and rigorous comparison between computational flux predictions and available experimental flux data (Emmerling et al, 2002; Perrenoud and Sauer, 2005; Nanchen et al, 2006) under six different environmental conditions for the model bacterium E. coli. For computational flux predictions, we used a constraint-based modeling approach that requires a stoichiometric model of metabolism (Stelling, 2004). More specifically, we employed flux balance analysis (FBA) where objective functions are defined that represent optimality principles of network operation (Price et al, 2004). This approach has been applied successfully to predict gene deletion lethality (Edwards and Palsson, 2000a, bEdwards and Palsson, 2000a, b; Forster et al, 2003; Kuepfer et al, 2005), network capacities and feasible network states (Edwards 2001, Ibarra 2002), but in only few cases to predict the intracellular flux state (Beard et al, 2002; Holzhütter, 2004).
While different objective functions were proposed for different biological systems (Holzhütter, 2004; Price et al, 2004; Knorr et al, 2006), by far the most common assumption is that microbial cells maximize their growth. To address this issue more generally, we evaluated the accuracy of FBA-based flux predictions for 11 linear and nonlinear objective functions that were combined with eight adjustable constraints. For this purpose, we constructed a highly interconnected stoichiometric network model with 98 reactions and 60 metabolites of E. coli central carbon metabolism. Based on mathematical analyses, the overall model could be reduced to a set of 10 reactions that summarize the actual systemic degree of freedom.
As a quantitative measure of how accurate the experimental data are predicted, we defined predictive fidelity as a single value to quantify the overall deviation between in silico and in vivo fluxes. By comparing all in silico predictions to 13C-based in vivo fluxes, we show that prediction of intracellular steady-state fluxes from network stoichiometry alone is, within limits, possible. An unexpected key result is that no further assumptions on network operation in the form of additional and potentially artificial constraints are necessary, provided the appropriate objective function is chosen for a given condition.
While no single objective was able to describe the flux states under all six conditions, we identified two sets of objectives for biologically meaningful predictions without the need for further constraints. For unlimited growth on glucose in aerobic or nitrate-respiring batch cultures, we find that the most accurate and robust results are obtained with the nonlinear maximization of ATP yield per flux unit (Figure 1). Under nutrient scarcity in glucose- or ammonium-limited continuous cultures, in contrast, linear maximization of the overall ATP or biomass yields achieved the highest predictive accuracy.
Since these identified optimality principles describe the system behavior without preconditioning of the network through further constraints, they reflect, to some extent, the evolutionary selection of metabolic network regulation that realizes the various flux states. For conditions of nutrient scarcity, the maximization of energy or biomass yield objective is consistent with the generally observed physiology (Russell and Cook, 1995). The meaning of the maximization of ATP yield per flux unit objective for unlimited growth, however, is less obvious. Generally, it selects for small networks with yet high, albeit suboptimal ATP formation, which has three biological consequences. Firstly, resources are economically allocated since expenditures for enzyme synthesis are, on average, greater for longer pathways. Secondly, suboptimal ATP yields dissipate more energy and thus enable higher catabolic rates. Thirdly, at a constant catabolic rate, a small network results in shorter residence times of substrate molecules until they generate ATP. The relative contribution of these consequences to the evolution of network regulation is unclear, but simultaneous optimization for ATP yield and catabolic rate under this optimality principle identifies a trade-off between the contradicting objectives of maximum overall ATP yield and maximum rate of ATP formation (Pfeiffer et al, 2001).
To which extent can optimality principles describe the operation of metabolic networks? By explicitly considering experimental errors and in silico alternate optima in flux balance analysis, we systematically evaluate the capacity of 11 objective functions combined with eight adjustable constraints to predict 13C-determined in vivo fluxes in Escherichia coli under six environmental conditions. While no single objective describes the flux states under all conditions, we identified two sets of objectives for biologically meaningful predictions without the need for further, potentially artificial constraints. Unlimited growth on glucose in oxygen or nitrate respiring batch cultures is best described by nonlinear maximization of the ATP yield per flux unit. Under nutrient scarcity in continuous cultures, in contrast, linear maximization of the overall ATP or biomass yields achieved the highest predictive accuracy. Since these particular objectives predict the system behavior without preconditioning of the network structure, the identified optimality principles reflect, to some extent, the evolutionary selection of metabolic network regulation that realizes the various flux states.
PMCID: PMC1949037  PMID: 17625511
13C-flux; evolution; flux balance analysis; metabolic network; network optimality
9.  Alternative Macroautophagic Pathways 
Macroautophagy is a bulk degradation process that mediates the clearance of long-lived proteins, aggregates, or even whole organelles. This process includes the formation of autophagosomes, double-membrane structures responsible for delivering cargo to lysosomes for degradation. Currently, other alternative autophagy pathways have been described, which are independent of macroautophagic key players like Atg5 and Beclin 1 or the lipidation of LC3. In this review, we highlight recent insights in indentifying and understanding the molecular mechanism responsible for alternative autophagic pathways.
PMCID: PMC3320029  PMID: 22536246
10.  Inhibition of the Host Translation Shutoff Response by Herpes Simplex Virus 1 Triggers Nuclear Envelope-Derived Autophagy 
Journal of Virology  2013;87(7):3990-3997.
Macroautophagy is a cellular pathway that degrades intracellular pathogens and contributes to antigen presentation. Herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1) infection triggers both macroautophagy and an additional form of autophagy that uses the nuclear envelope as a source of membrane. The present study constitutes the first in-depth analysis of nuclear envelope-derived autophagy (NEDA). We established LC3a as a marker that allowed us to distinguish between NEDA and macroautophagy in both immunofluorescence and flow cytometry. NEDA was observed in many different cell types, indicating that it is a general response to HSV-1 infection. This autophagic pathway is known to depend on the viral protein γ34.5, which can inhibit macroautophagy via binding to beclin-1. Using mutant viruses, we were able to show that binding of beclin-1 by γ34.5 had no effect on NEDA, demonstrating that NEDA is regulated differently than macroautophagy. Instead, NEDA was triggered in response to γ34.5 binding to protein phosphatase 1α, an interaction used by the virus to prevent host cells from shutting off protein translation. NEDA was not triggered when late viral protein production was inhibited with acyclovir or hippuristanol, indicating that the accumulation of these proteins might stress infected cells. Interestingly, expression of the late viral protein gH was sufficient to rescue NEDA in the context of infection with a virus that otherwise does not support strong late viral protein expression. We argue that NEDA is a cellular stress response triggered late during HSV-1 infection and might compensate for the viral alteration of the macroautophagic response.
PMCID: PMC3624196  PMID: 23365427
11.  Balance between autophagic pathways preserves retinal homeostasis 
Aging cell  2013;12(3):478-488.
Aging contributes to the appearance of several retinopathies and is the largest risk factor for aged-related macular degeneration, major cause of blindness in the elderly population. Accumulation of undegraded material as lipofuscin represents a hallmark in many pathologies of the aged eye. Autophagy is a highly conserved intracellular degradative pathway that plays a critical role in the removal of damaged cell components to maintain the cellular homeostasis. A decrease in autophagic activity with age observed in many tissues has been proposed to contribute to the aggravation of age-related diseases. However, the participation of different autophagic pathways to the retina physiopathology remains unknown. Here we describe a marked reduction in macroautophagic activity in the retina with age, which coincides with an increase in chaperone-mediated autophagy (CMA). This increase in CMA is also observed during retinal neurodegeneration in the Atg5flox/flox; nestin-Cre mice, a mouse model with downregulation of macroautophagy in neuronal precursors. In contrast to other cell types, this autophagic cross-talk in retinal cells is not bi-directional and CMA inhibition renders cone photoreceptor very sensitive to stress. Temporal and cell-type specific differences in the balance between autophagic pathways may be responsible for the specific pattern of visual loss that occurs with aging. Our results show for the first time a cross-talk of different lysosomal proteolytic systems in the retina during normal aging and may help the development of new therapeutic intervention for age-dependent retinal diseases.
PMCID: PMC3655122  PMID: 23521856
Retina; aging; autophagy; chaperone-mediated autophagy; photoreceptor; lipofuscin
12.  Impairment of chaperone-mediated autophagy leads to selective lysosomal degradation defects in the lysosomal storage disease cystinosis 
EMBO Molecular Medicine  2015;7(2):158-174.
Metabolite accumulation in lysosomal storage disorders (LSDs) results in impaired cell function and multi-systemic disease. Although substrate reduction and lysosomal overload-decreasing therapies can ameliorate disease progression, the significance of lysosomal overload-independent mechanisms in the development of cellular dysfunction is unknown for most LSDs. Here, we identify a mechanism of impaired chaperone-mediated autophagy (CMA) in cystinosis, a LSD caused by defects in the cystine transporter cystinosin (CTNS) and characterized by cystine lysosomal accumulation. We show that, different from other LSDs, autophagosome number is increased, but macroautophagic flux is not impaired in cystinosis while mTOR activity is not affected. Conversely, the expression and localization of the CMA receptor LAMP2A are abnormal in CTNS-deficient cells and degradation of the CMA substrate GAPDH is defective in Ctns−/− mice. Importantly, cysteamine treatment, despite decreasing lysosomal overload, did not correct defective CMA in Ctns−/− mice or LAMP2A mislocalization in cystinotic cells, which was rescued by CTNS expression instead, suggesting that cystinosin is important for CMA activity. In conclusion, CMA impairment contributes to cell malfunction in cystinosis, highlighting the need for treatments complementary to current therapies that are based on decreasing lysosomal overload.
PMCID: PMC4328646  PMID: 25586965
autophagy; CTNS; cystinosis; lysosomal storage disorder; lysosomal trafficking
13.  Immunohistochemical analysis of macroautophagy 
Autophagy  2013;9(3):386-402.
Transmission electron microscopy (TEM) is an indispensable standard method to monitor macroautophagy in tissue samples. Because TEM is time consuming and not suitable for daily routine, many groups try to identify macroautophagy in tissue by conventional immunohistochemistry. The aim of the present study was to evaluate whether immunohistochemical assessment of macroautophagy-related marker proteins such as LC3, ATG5, CTSD/cathepsin D, BECN1/Beclin 1 or SQSTM1/p62 is feasible and autophagy-specific. For this purpose, livers from starved mice were used as a model because hepatocytes are highly sensitive to autophagy induction. ATG7-deficient mouse livers served as negative control. Our findings indicate that unambiguous immunodetection of LC3 in paraffin-embedded tissue specimens was hampered due to low in situ levels of this protein. Maximum sensitivity could only be obtained using high-quality, isoform-specific antibodies, such as antibody 5F10, in combination with Envision+ signal amplification. Moreover, LC3 stains were optimal in neutral-buffered formalin-fixed tissue, immersed in citrate buffer during antigen retrieval. However, even when using this methodology, LC3 monitoring required overexpression of the protein, e.g., in GFP-LC3 transgenic mice. This was not only the case for the liver but also for other organs including heart, skeletal muscle, kidney and gut. Immunohistochemical detection of the autophagy-related proteins ATG5, CTSD or BECN1 is not recommendable for monitoring autophagy, due to lack of differential gene expression or doubtful specificity. SQSTM1 accumulated in autophagy-deficient liver, thus it is not a useful marker for tissue with autophagic activity. We conclude that TEM remains an indispensable technique for in situ evaluation of macroautophagy, particularly in clinical samples for which genetic manipulation or other in vitro techniques are not feasible.
PMCID: PMC3590258  PMID: 23242143
immunohistochemistry; liver; autophagy; LC3; GFP-LC3; Envision+
14.  FiatFlux – a software for metabolic flux analysis from 13C-glucose experiments 
BMC Bioinformatics  2005;6:209.
Quantitative knowledge of intracellular fluxes is important for a comprehensive characterization of metabolic networks and their functional operation. In contrast to direct assessment of metabolite concentrations, in vivo metabolite fluxes must be inferred indirectly from measurable quantities in 13C experiments. The required experience, the complicated network models, large and heterogeneous data sets, and the time-consuming set-up of highly controlled experimental conditions largely restricted metabolic flux analysis to few expert groups. A conceptual simplification of flux analysis is the analytical determination of metabolic flux ratios exclusively from MS data, which can then be used in a second step to estimate absolute in vivo fluxes.
Here we describe the user-friendly software package FiatFlux that supports flux analysis for non-expert users. In the first module, ratios of converging fluxes are automatically calculated from GC-MS-detected 13C-pattern in protein-bound amino acids. Predefined fragmentation patterns are automatically identified and appropriate statistical data treatment is based on the comparison of redundant information in the MS spectra. In the second module, absolute intracellular fluxes may be calculated by a 13C-constrained flux balancing procedure that combines experimentally determined fluxes in and out of the cell and the above flux ratios. The software is preconfigured to derive flux ratios and absolute in vivo fluxes from [1-13C] and [U-13C]glucose experiments and GC-MS analysis of amino acids for a variety of microorganisms.
FiatFlux is an intuitive tool for quantitative investigations of intracellular metabolism by users that are not familiar with numerical methods or isotopic tracer experiments. The aim of this open source software is to enable non-specialists to adapt the software to their specific scientific interests, including other 13C-substrates, labeling mixtures, and organisms.
PMCID: PMC1199586  PMID: 16122385
15.  Arp2 Links Autophagic Machinery with the Actin Cytoskeleton 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2008;19(5):1962-1975.
Macroautophagy involves lysosomal/vacuolar elimination of long-lived proteins and entire organelles from the cytosol. The process begins with formation of a double-membrane vesicle that sequesters bulk cytoplasm, or a specific cargo destined for lysosomal/vacuolar delivery. The completed vesicle fuses with the lysosome/vacuole limiting membrane, releasing its content into the organelle lumen for subsequent degradation and recycling of the resulting macromolecules. A majority of the autophagy-related (Atg) proteins are required at the step of vesicle formation. The integral membrane protein Atg9 cycles between certain intracellular compartments and the vesicle nucleation site, presumably to supply membranes necessary for macroautophagic vesicle formation. In this study we have tracked the movement of Atg9 over time in living cells by using real-time fluorescence microscopy. Our results reveal that an actin-related protein, Arp2, briefly colocalizes with Atg9 and directly regulates the dynamics of Atg9 movement. We propose that proteins of the Arp2/3 complex regulate Atg9 transport for specific types of autophagy.
PMCID: PMC2366845  PMID: 18287533
16.  Understanding the physiology of Lactobacillus plantarum at zero growth 
The physiology of Lactobacillus plantarum at extremely low growth rates, through cultivation in retentostats, is much closer to carbon-limited growth than to stationary phase, as evidenced from transcriptomics data, metabolic fluxes, and biomass composition and viability.Using a genome-scale metabolic model and constraint-based computational analyses, amino-acid fluxes—in particular, the rather paradoxical excretion of Asp, Arg, Met, and Ala—could be rationalized as a means to allow extensive metabolism of other amino acids, that is, that of branched-chain and aromatic amino acids.Catabolic products from aromatic amino acids are known to have putative plant-hormone action. The metabolism of amino acids, as well as transcription data, strongly suggested a plant environment-like response in slow-growing L. plantarum, which was confirmed by significant effects of fermented medium on plant root formation.
Natural ecosystems are usually characterized by extremely low and fluctuating nutrient availability. Hence, microorganisms in these environments live a ‘feast-and-famine' existence, with famine the most habitual state. As a result, extremely slow or no growth is the most common state of bacteria, and maintenance processes dominate their life.
In the present study, Lactobacillus plantarum was used as a model microorganism to investigate the physiology of slow growth. Besides fermented foods, this microorganism can be observed in a variety of environmental niches, including plants and lakes, in which nutrient supply is limited. To mimic these conditions, L. plantarum was grown in a glucose-limited chemostat with complete biomass retention (retentostat). During cultivation, biomass progressively accumulated, resulting in steadily decreasing specific substrate availability. Less energy was thus available for growth, and the specific growth rate decreased accordingly, with a final calculated doubling time greater than one year. Detailed measurements of metabolic fluxes were used as constraints in a genome-scale metabolic model to precisely calculate the amount of energy used for net biomass synthesis and for maintenance purposes: at the lowest growth rate investigated (μ=0.0002 h−1), maintenance accounted for 94% of all energy expenses.
Genome-scale metabolic analysis was used in combination with transcriptomics to study the adaptation of L. plantarum to extremely slow growth under limited carbon and energy supply. Importantly, slow growth as investigated here was fundamentally different from the widely studied carbon starvation-induced stationary phase: non-growing cells in retentostat conditions were glucose limited rather than starved, and the transition from a growing to a non-growing state under retentostat conditions was progressive, in contrast with the abrupt transition in batch cultures. These differences were reflected in various aspects of the cell physiology.
The metabolic behavior was remarkably stable during adaptation to slow growth. Although carbon catabolite repression was clearly relieved, as indicated by the upregulation of genes for the utilization of alternative carbohydrates, the metabolism remained largely based on the conversion of glucose to lactate.
Stress resistance mechanisms were also not massively induced. In particular, analysis of the biomass composition—which remained similar to fast-growing cells even under virtually non-growing conditions—and of the gene expression profile, failed to reveal clear stringent or general stress responses, which are generally triggered in glucose-starved cells. The observation that genes involved in growth-associated processes were not downregulated suggested that active synthesis of biomass components (RNA, proteins, and membranes) was required to account for the observed stable biomass and that turnover of macromolecules was high in slow-growing cells. Biomass viability or morphology was also not affected, compared with faster growth conditions. The only typical stress response was the induction of an SOS response—in particular, the upregulation of the two error-prone DNA polymerases—suggesting an increased potential for genetic diversity under adverse conditions. Although diversity was not apparent under the conditions studied here, such mechanisms of increased rates of mutagenesis are likely to have an important role in the adaptation of L. plantarum to slow growth.
A surprising response of L. plantarum during adaptation to slow growth was the production of several amino acids (Arg, Asp, Met, and Ala). A priori, this metabolic behavior seemed inefficient in a context of energy limitation. However, reduced cost analysis using the genome-scale metabolic model indicated that it had a positive effect on energy generation. In-depth analysis of metabolic flux distributions showed that biosynthesis of these amino acids was connected to the catabolism of branched-chain and aromatic amino acids (BCAAs and AAAs), under conditions of limited ammonium efflux. At a fixed ammonium efflux—fixed at the measured value—flux balance analysis indicated that BCAAs and AAAs were expensive to metabolize, because the regeneration of 2-ketoglutarate through glutamate dehydrogenase was limited by ammonium dissipation. Therefore, alternative pathways had to be active to supply the necessary pool of 2-ketoglutarate. At low growth rates, amino-acid production (Arg, Asp, Ala, and Met) accounted for most of the 2-ketoglutarate regeneration. Although it came at the expense of ATP, this metabolic alternative to glutamate dehydrogenase was less energy costly than other solutions such as purine biosynthesis. This is thus an excellent example in which precise, quantitative modeling results in new insights in physiology that intuition would never have achieved. It also shows that flux balance analysis can be used to accurately predict energetically inefficient metabolism, provided the appropriate fluxes are constrained (here, ammonium efflux).
The observation that BCAAs and AAAs were catabolized at the expense of energy was intriguing. However, several end products of these catabolic pathways can serve as signaling molecules for interactions with other organisms. In particular, precursors of plant hormones were predicted as possible end products in the model simulations. Accordingly, the production of compounds interfering with plant root development was demonstrated in slow-growing L. plantarum. The metabolic analysis thus suggested that slow-growing L. plantarum produced plant hormones—or precursors thereof—as a strategy to divert the plant metabolism towards its own interest. In support of this view, transcriptome analysis indicated the upregulation of genes involved in the catabolism of β-glucosides—typical sugars from plant cell wall—as well as a very high induction of six gene clusters encoding cell-surface protein complexes predicted to have a role in the utilization of plant polysaccharides (csc clusters). In such a plant context, limited ammonium production would also make sense, because of the well-documented toxicity of ammonium for plants: production of amino acids could represent an alternative to ammonium excretion while keeping both parties satisfied.
In conclusion, the physiology of L. plantarum at extremely low growth rates, as studied by genome-scale metabolic modeling and transcriptomics, is fundamentally different from that of starvation-induced stationary phase cells. Excitingly, these conditions seem to trigger responses that favor interactions with the environment, more specifically with plants. The reported observations were made in the absence of any plant-derived material, suggesting that this response might constitute a hardwired behavior.
Situations of extremely low substrate availability, resulting in slow growth, are common in natural environments. To mimic these conditions, Lactobacillus plantarum was grown in a carbon-limited retentostat with complete biomass retention. The physiology of extremely slow-growing L. plantarum—as studied by genome-scale modeling and transcriptomics—was fundamentally different from that of stationary-phase cells. Stress resistance mechanisms were not massively induced during transition to extremely slow growth. The energy-generating metabolism was remarkably stable and remained largely based on the conversion of glucose to lactate. The combination of metabolic and transcriptomic analyses revealed behaviors involved in interactions with the environment, more particularly with plants: production of plant hormones or precursors thereof, and preparedness for the utilization of plant-derived substrates. Accordingly, the production of compounds interfering with plant root development was demonstrated in slow-growing L. plantarum. Thus, conditions of slow growth and limited substrate availability seem to trigger a plant environment-like response, even in the absence of plant-derived material, suggesting that this might constitute an intrinsic behavior in L. plantarum.
PMCID: PMC2964122  PMID: 20865006
Lactobacillus plantarum; metabolic modeling; retentostat; slow growth; transcriptome analysis
Toxicology and applied pharmacology  2013;273(3):10.1016/j.taap.2013.10.006.
Onset of the mitochondrial permeability transition (MPT) plays a causative role in ischemia/reperfusion (I/R) injury. Current therapeutic strategies for reducing reperfusion injury remain disappointing. Autophagy is a lysosome-mediated, catabolic process that timely eliminates abnormal or damaged cellular constituents and organelles such as dysfunctional mitochondria. I/R induces calcium overloading and calpain activation, leading to degradation of key autophagy-related proteins (Atg). Carbamazepine (CBZ), an FDA-approved anticonvulsant drug, has recently been reported to increase autophagy. We investigated the effects of CBZ on hepatic I/R injury. Hepatocytes and livers from male C57BL/6 mice were subjected to simulated in vitro, as well as in vivo I/R, respectively. Cell death, intracellular calcium, calpain activity, changes in autophagy-related proteins (Atg), autophagic flux, MPT and mitochondrial membrane potential after I/R were analyzed in the presence and absence of 20 µM CBZ. CBZ significantly increased hepatocyte viability after reperfusion. Confocal microscopy revealed that CBZ prevented calcium overloading, the onset of the MPT and mitochondrial depolarization. Immunoblotting and fluorometric analysis showed that CBZ blocked calpain activation, depletion of Atg7 and Beclin-1 and loss of autophagic flux after reperfusion. Intravital multiphoton imaging of anesthetized mice demonstrated that CBZ substantially reversed autophagic defects and mitochondrial dysfunction after I/R in vivo. In conclusion, CBZ prevents calcium overloading and calpain activation, which, in turn, suppresses Atg7 and Beclin-1 depletion, defective autophagy, onset of the MPT and cell death after I/R.
PMCID: PMC3867813  PMID: 24126417
mitochondria; autophagy; mitochondrial permeability transition; hepatocytes; ischemia/reperfusion; calcium
18.  Quantitation of selective autophagic protein aggregate degradation in vitro and in vivo using luciferase reporters 
Autophagy  2009;5(4):511-519.
The analysis of autophagy in cells and tissue has principally been performed via qualitative measures. These assays identify autophagosomes or measure the conversion of LC3I to LC3II. However, qualitative assays fail to quantitate the degradation of an autophagic substrate and therefore only indirectly measure an intact autophagic system. “Autophagic flux” can be measured using long-lived proteins that are degraded via autophagy. We developed a quantifiable luciferase reporter assay that measures the degradation of a long-lived polyglutamine protein aggregate, polyQ80-luciferase. Using this reporter, the induction of autophagy via starvation or rapamycin in cells preferentially decreases polyQ80-luciferase when compared with a non-aggregating polyQ19-luciferase after four hours of treatment. This response was both time- and concentration-dependent, prevented by autophagy inhibitors and absent in ATG5 knockout cells. We adapted this assay to living animals by electroporating polyQ19-luciferase and polyQ80-luciferase expression constructs into the right and left tibialis anterior (TA) muscles of mice, respectively. The change in the ratio of polyQ80-luciferase to polyQ19-luciferase signal before and after autophagic stimulation or inhibition was quantified via in vivo bioluminescent imaging. Following two days of starvation or treatment with intraperitoneal rapamycin, there was a ~35% reduction in the ratio of polyQ80:polyQ19-luciferase activity, consistent with the selective autophagic degradation of polyQ80 protein. This autophagic response in skeletal muscle in vivo was abrogated by co-treatment with chloroquine and in ATG16L1 hypomorphic mice. Our study demonstrates a method to quantify the autophagic flux of an expanded polyglutamine via luciferase reporters in vitro and in vivo.
PMCID: PMC2992796  PMID: 19305149
19.  Bacterial adaptation through distributed sensing of metabolic fluxes 
We present a large-scale differential equation model of E. coli's central metabolism and its enzymatic, transcriptional, and posttranslational regulation. This model reproduces E. coli's known physiological behavior.We found that the interplay of known interactions in E. coli's central metabolism can indirectly recognize the presence of extracellular carbon sources through measuring intracellular metabolic flux patterns.We found that E. coli's system-level adaptations between glycolytic and gluconeogenic carbon sources are realized on the molecular level by global feedback architectures that overarch the enzymatic and transcriptional regulatory layers.We found that the capability for closed-loop self-regulation can emerge within metabolism itself and therefore, metabolic operation may adapt itself autonomously to changing carbon sources (not requiring upstream sensing and signaling).
Adaptations to fluctuating carbon source availability are of particular importance for bacteria. To understand these adaptations, it needs to be understood how a system's behavior emerges from the interactions between the characterized molecules (Kitano, 2002b). To attain such a system understanding of bacterial metabolic adaptations to carbon source availability, the coupling between the recognition and adjustment aspects and between the enzymatic and genetic regulatory layers must be understood. For many carbon sources, neither transmembrane sensors nor regulatory proteins with sensing function have been identified. Also, it remains unclear how multiple local regulations work together to accomplish a coherent adjustment on the systems level. In this paper, we show that (1) the interplay of the known interactions in E. coli's central metabolism is capable of recognizing carbon sources indirectly, and that (2) these molecular interactions can adjust E. coli's metabolic operation between growth on glycolytic and gluconeogenic carbon sources, and that (3) this adaptation is governed by general principles.
We hypothesized that the system-level adaptations between growth on glycolytic and gluconeogenic carbon sources are accomplished by a system-wide regulation architecture that emerges when the known enzymatic and transcriptional regulations become coupled through five transcription factor (TF)–metabolite interactions. To (1) assess whether such coupled molecular interactions can indeed work together to adapt metabolic operation, and if yes, (2) to understand this system-level adaptation in molecular-level detail, we constructed a large-scale differential equation model. The model topology comprises the Embden–Meyerhoff pathway, the tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle, the glyoxylate (GLX) shunt, the anaplerotic reactions, the diversion of carbon flux to the GLX shunt, the uptake of glucose, the uptake and excretion of acetate, enzymatic regulation, transcriptional regulation by four TFs, and the regulation of these TFs' activities through TF–metabolite interactions. We translated the topology into differential equations by assigning the most appropriate rate law to each interaction. The kinetic model comprises 47 ordinary differential equations and 193 parameters. Parameter values were estimated through application of the ‘divide-and-conquer approach' (Kotte and Heinemann, 2009) on published experimental steady state-omics data sets.
Model simulations reproduce E. coli's known physiological behavior in an environment with fluctuating carbon source availability. But how does the in silico cell recognize acetate without a transmembrane sensor for extracellular acetate or a TF binding to intracellular acetate? Similarly, it is unclear whether the glucose sensing function of the phosphotransferase system is the exclusive mechanism to recognize glucose, or whether this sensing function is integrated into a larger sensing architecture. The model suggests that the recognition is performed indirectly through a mechanism we termed distributed sensing of intracellular metabolic fluxes. This mechanism uses two distinct motifs, which we termed pathway usage and flux direction, to establish defined correlations between metabolic fluxes and the levels of certain, here termed flux-signaling metabolites. The binding of these metabolites to TFs propagates the flux information to the transcriptional regulatory layer. A molecular sensor for intracellular metabolic flux is thus defined as a system of regulations and enzyme kinetics, comprising (1) either of the two motifs pathway usage or flux direction and (2) the binding of the thus established flux-signaling metabolites to TF(s).
As the in silico cell establishes and uses sensors for several intracellular metabolic fluxes, the overall sensing architecture infers the present carbon sources from a pattern of metabolic fluxes and is as such of a distributed nature. The core of this sensing architecture is formed not by transmembrane sensors but by four flux sensors, which establish flux-signaling metabolites according to the two proposed general motifs. These flux sensors use intracellular metabolic flux as a means to correlate the presence of extracellular carbon sources with the levels of intracellular metabolites. The recognition of glucose through the PTS transmembrane complex is embedded as one flux sensor in this distributed sensing architecture; the other three flux sensors function without the help of transmembrane complexes.
The in silico cell achieves the coupling between recognition and adjustment through its TFs, whose activities respond to the available carbon sources and at the same time regulate the expression of target genes. This combined recognition and adjustment, centered on the four TFs, closes four global feedback loops that overarch the metabolic and genetic layers as illustrated in Figure 6. The adaptation of the in silico cell arises from the global feedback loop-embedded, flux sensor-adjusted transcriptional regulation of the four TFs, with each TF performing one part of the overall adaptation. This adaptation incorporates both the influence of the metabolic on the genetic layer, achieved through TF–metabolite interactions, and of the genetic on the metabolic layer, achieved through the impact of adjusted enzyme levels on metabolic fluxes.
The existence of the global feedback architectures challenges the conventional view that top-level regulatory proteins recognize environmental conditions and adjust downstream metabolic operation. It suggests that the capability for closed-loop self-regulation can emerge within metabolism itself and therefore, metabolic operation may adapt itself autonomously (not requiring upstream sensing and regulation) to changing carbon sources.
To conclude, the presented differential equation model of E. coli's central metabolism offers a consistent explanation of how a multitude of known molecular interactions fit into a coherent systems picture; the interactions work together like gear wheels that mesh with one another to adapt central metabolism between growth on the glycolytic substrate glucose and the gluconeogenic substrate acetate. The deduced general functional principles provide the missing link to understand system-level adaptations to carbon sources in molecular-level detail. The proposed principles fall under the umbrella of distributed flux sensing. The flux sensing mechanism entails the binding of TFs to flux-signaling metabolites, which are established through the motifs signaling of pathway usage and signaling of flux direction, and are embedded in global feedback loop architectures. These principles allow an autonomous adaptation of metabolic operation to growth in fluctuating environments.
The recognition of carbon sources and the regulatory adjustments to recognized changes are of particular importance for bacterial survival in fluctuating environments. Despite a thorough knowledge base of Escherichia coli's central metabolism and its regulation, fundamental aspects of the employed sensing and regulatory adjustment mechanisms remain unclear. In this paper, using a differential equation model that couples enzymatic and transcriptional regulation of E. coli's central metabolism, we show that the interplay of known interactions explains in molecular-level detail the system-wide adjustments of metabolic operation between glycolytic and gluconeogenic carbon sources. We show that these adaptations are enabled by an indirect recognition of carbon sources through a mechanism we termed distributed sensing of intracellular metabolic fluxes. This mechanism uses two general motifs to establish flux-signaling metabolites, whose bindings to transcription factors form flux sensors. As these sensors are embedded in global feedback loop architectures, closed-loop self-regulation can emerge within metabolism itself and therefore, metabolic operation may adapt itself autonomously (not requiring upstream sensing and signaling) to fluctuating carbon sources.
PMCID: PMC2858440  PMID: 20212527
computational model; metabolism; regulation; sensing; systems biology
20.  In Vivo Analysis of Autophagy in Response to Nutrient Starvation Using Transgenic Mice Expressing a Fluorescent Autophagosome Marker 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2004;15(3):1101-1111.
Macroautophagy mediates the bulk degradation of cytoplasmic components. It accounts for the degradation of most long-lived proteins: cytoplasmic constituents, including organelles, are sequestered into autophagosomes, which subsequently fuse with lysosomes, where degradation occurs. Although the possible involvement of autophagy in homeostasis, development, cell death, and pathogenesis has been repeatedly pointed out, systematic in vivo analysis has not been performed in mammals, mainly because of a limitation of monitoring methods. To understand where and when autophagy occurs in vivo, we have generated transgenic mice systemically expressing GFP fused to LC3, which is a mammalian homologue of yeast Atg8 (Aut7/Apg8) and serves as a marker protein for autophagosomes. Fluorescence microscopic analyses revealed that autophagy is differently induced by nutrient starvation in most tissues. In some tissues, autophagy even occurs actively without starvation treatments. Our results suggest that the regulation of autophagy is organ dependent and the role of autophagy is not restricted to the starvation response. This transgenic mouse model is a useful tool to study mammalian autophagy.
PMCID: PMC363084  PMID: 14699058
21.  Leupeptin Inhibits Adrenocorticotropic Hormone-induced Protein Breakdown in the Conscious Dog 
Journal of Clinical Investigation  1983;71(2):390-394.
To elucidate the role of proteinase inhibitors in the regulation of protein breakdown in vivo, we measured the effect of leupeptin on the rate of appearance of leucine in the plasma compartment in overnight-fasted conscious dogs. Two groups of dogs were studied. The control group (I) received saline infusion, and the experimental group (II) was rendered hypercatabolic with daily administration of adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) (500 U/d) for 4 d.
ACTH treatment increased plasma cortisol from 2±0.4 to 17±2 μg/dl (P < 0.005). It raised plasma leucine levels (μmol/liter) from 123±6 in I to 206±5 in II (P < 0.01) and its rate of appearance into the plasma compartment (micromoles per kilogram per minute) from 3.1±0.1 in I to 4.6±0.3 in II (P < 0.01). Whole blood alanine concentration (micromoles per liter) increased by 50% (from 387±31 to 577±53, P < 0.01) and whole blood glutamine concentration (micromoles per liter) increased from 653±51 to 917±93 (P < 0.01). Leupeptin infusion in the ACTH-treated group significantly decreased both the concentration of plasma leucine and its rate of appearance. Blood glutamine declined by 30% (P < 0.05) after leupeptin, but no effect on blood alanine was observed. Leupeptin had no effect on the saline control group.
These data indicate that leupeptin decreases the accelerated rate of protein breakdown induced by cortisol excess. The fact that it did not affect protein degradation in controls may indicate that control of protein breakdown in the postabsorptive state may differ from that during accelerated turnover. Thus, the antibiotic proteinase enzyme inhibitors may be potentially useful in treating conditions of inappropriate protein breakdown.
PMCID: PMC436879  PMID: 6296201
22.  Oxidative Stress Stimulates Autophagic Flux During Ischemia/Reperfusion 
Antioxidants & Redox Signaling  2011;14(11):2179-2190.
Autophagy is a bulk degradation process in which cytosolic proteins and organelles are degraded through lysosomes. To evaluate autophagic flux in cardiac myocytes, we generated adenovirus and cardiac-specific transgenic mice harboring tandem fluorescent mRFP-GFP-LC3. Starvation significantly increased the number of mRFP-GFP-LC3 dots representing both autophagosomes and autolysosomes per cell, suggesting that autophagic flux is increased in cardiac myocytes. H2O2 significantly increased autophagic flux, which was attenuated in the presence of N-2-mercaptopropionyl glycine (MPG), an antioxidant, suggesting that oxidative stress stimulates autophagy in cardiac myocytes. Myocardial ischemia/reperfusion (I/R) increased both autophagosomes and autolysosomes, thereby increasing autophagic flux. Treatment with MPG attenuated I/R-induced increases in oxidative stress, autophagic flux, and Beclin-1 expression, accompanied by a decrease in the size of myocardial infarction (MI)/area at risk (AAR), suggesting that oxidative stress plays an important role in mediating autophagy and myocardial injury during I/R. MI/AAR after I/R was significantly reduced in beclin1+/− mice, whereas beclin1+/− mice treated with MPG exhibited no additional reduction in the size of MI/AAR after I/R. These results suggest that oxidative stress plays an important role in mediating autophagy during I/R, and that activation of autophagy through oxidative stress mediates myocardial injury in response to I/R in the mouse heart. Antioxid. Redox Signal. 14, 2179–2190.
PMCID: PMC3085947  PMID: 20812860
23.  Sensitivity Analysis of Flux Determination in Heart by H218O -provided Labeling Using a Dynamic Isotopologue Model of Energy Transfer Pathways 
PLoS Computational Biology  2012;8(12):e1002795.
To characterize intracellular energy transfer in the heart, two organ-level methods have frequently been employed: inversion and saturation transfer, and dynamic labeling. Creatine kinase (CK) fluxes obtained by following oxygen labeling have been considerably smaller than the fluxes determined by saturation transfer. It has been proposed that dynamic labeling determines net flux through CK shuttle, whereas saturation transfer measures total unidirectional flux. However, to our knowledge, no sensitivity analysis of flux determination by oxygen labeling has been performed, limiting our ability to compare flux distributions predicted by different methods. Here we analyze oxygen labeling in a physiological heart phosphotransfer network with active CK and adenylate kinase (AdK) shuttles and establish which fluxes determine the labeling state. A mathematical model consisting of a system of ordinary differential equations was composed describing enrichment in each phosphoryl group and inorganic phosphate. By varying flux distributions in the model and calculating the labeling, we analyzed labeling sensitivity to different fluxes in the heart. We observed that the labeling state is predominantly sensitive to total unidirectional CK and AdK fluxes and not to net fluxes. We conclude that measuring dynamic incorporation of into the high-energy phosphotransfer network in heart does not permit unambiguous determination of energetic fluxes with a higher magnitude than the ATP synthase rate when the bidirectionality of fluxes is taken into account. Our analysis suggests that the flux distributions obtained using dynamic labeling, after removing the net flux assumption, are comparable with those from inversion and saturation transfer.
Author Summary
In heart, the movement of energy metabolites between force-producing myosin, other ATPases, and mitochondria is vital for its function and closely related to heart pathologies. In addition to diffusion, transport of ATP, ADP, Pi, and phosphocreatine occurs along parallel pathways such as the adenylate kinase and creatine kinase shuttles. Two organ-level methods have been developed to study the relative flux through these pathways. However, their results differ. It was recently demonstrated that studies often suffer from the exclusion of compartmentation from their metabolic models. One study overcame this limitation by using compartmental models and statistical methods on multiple experiments. Here, we analyzed the sensitivity of the other method - dynamic labeling of phosphoryl groups and inorganic phosphate. For that, we composed a mathematical model tracking enrichment of the metabolites and evaluated sensitivity of labeling to different flux distribution scenarios. Our study shows that the dynamic method provides a measure of total flux, and not net flux as presumed previously, making the fluxes predicted from both methods consistent. Importantly, conclusions derived on the basis of labeling analysis, particularly those regarding the net flux through the shuttles in control and pathological cases, need to be reevaluated.
PMCID: PMC3516558  PMID: 23236266
24.  MAPK15/ERK8 stimulates autophagy by interacting with LC3 and GABARAP proteins 
Autophagy  2012;8(12):1724-1740.
Macroautophagy (hereafter referred to as autophagy) is an evolutionarily conserved catabolic process necessary for normal recycling of cellular constituents and for appropriate response to cellular stress. Although several genes belonging to the core molecular machinery involved in autophagosome formation have been discovered, relatively little is known about the nature of signaling networks controlling autophagy upon intracellular or extracellular stimuli. We discovered ATG8-like proteins (MAP1LC3B, GABARAP and GABARAPL1) as novel interactors of MAPK15/ERK8, a MAP kinase involved in cell proliferation and transformation. Based on the role of these proteins in the autophagic process, we demonstrated that MAPK15 is indeed localized to autophagic compartments and increased, in a kinase-dependent fashion, ATG8-like proteins lipidation, autophagosome formation and SQSTM1 degradation, while decreasing LC3B inhibitory phosphorylation. Interestingly, we also identified a conserved LC3-interacting region (LIR) in MAPK15 responsible for its interaction with ATG8-like proteins, for its localization to autophagic structures and, consequently, for stimulation of the formation of these compartments. Furthermore, we reveal that MAPK15 activity was induced in response to serum and amino-acid starvation and that this stimulus, in turn, required endogenous MAPK15 expression to induce the autophagic process. Altogether, these results suggested a new function for MAPK15 as a regulator of autophagy, acting through interaction with ATG8 family proteins. Also, based on the key role of this process in several human diseases, these results supported the use of this MAP kinase as a potential novel therapeutic target.
PMCID: PMC3541284  PMID: 22948227
MAP kinases; signal transduction; autophagy; LC3B; GABARAP; SQSTM1
25.  Autophagy Suppresses Age-Dependent Ischemia and Reperfusion Injury in Livers of Mice 
Gastroenterology  2011;141(6):2188-2199.e6.
As life expectancy increases, there are greater numbers of patients with liver diseases that require surgery or transplantation. Livers of older patients have significantly less reparative capacity following ischemia and reperfusion (I/R) injury, which occurs during these operations. There are no strategies to reduce the age-dependent I/R injury. We investigated the role of autophagy in the age dependence of sensitivity to I/R injury.
Hepatocytes and livers from 3- and 26-month–old mice were subjected to in vitro and in vivo I/R, respectively. We analyzed changes in autophagy-related proteins (Atg). Mitochondrial dysfunction was visualized using confocal and intravital multiphoton microscopy of isolated hepatocytes and livers from anesthetized mice, respectively.
Immunoblot, autophagic flux, genetic, and imaging analyses all associated the increase in sensitivity to I/R injury with age with decreased autophagy and subsequent mitochondrial dysfunction, due to calpain-mediated loss of Atg4B. Overexpression of either Atg4B or Beclin-1 recovered Atg4B, increased autophagy, blocked the onset of the mitochondrial permeability transition, and suppressed cell death after I/R in old hepatocytes. Co-immunoprecipitation analysis of hepatocytes and Atg3-knockout cells demonstrated an interaction between Beclin-1 and Atg3, a protein required for autophagosome formation. Intravital multiphoton imaging revealed that overexpression of Beclin-1 or Atg4B attenuated autophagic defects and mitochondrial dysfunction in livers of older mice after I/R.
Loss of Atg4B in livers of old mice increases their sensitivity to I/R injury. Increasing autophagy might ameliorate liver damage and restore mitochondrial function after I/R.
PMCID: PMC3221865  PMID: 21854730
MPT; mouse model; aging; liver injury

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