A central part of the core macroauto-phagy (hereafter autophagy) machinery includes the two ubiquitin-like (Ubl) conjugation systems that involve the Ubl proteins Atg8 and Atg12.1 Although the functions of these proteins have not been fully elucidated, they play critical roles in autophagosome formation. For example, Atg8 is involved in cargo recognition,2,3 and the amount of Atg8 in part determines the size of the autophagosome,4 whereas Atg12 is part of a trimer that may function as an E3 ligase to facilitate Atg8 conjugation to phosphatidylethanolamine and determine, in part, the site of the conjugation reaction.5 Thus, fully functional autophagy requires both the Atg8 and Atg12 conjugation systems. Dysfunctional autophagy is associated with various human pathophysiologies including cancer, neurodegeneration, gastrointestinal disorders and heart disease. So, if you are wondering whether autophagy is operating properly in your own body, what can you do? The problem is that there are relatively few methods for analyzing autophagy in vivo.6-11 Minimally, you might want to find out if the relevant genes are intact and have the correct sequence. Considering the rapid advances being made in DNA sequencing technology, it is likely only a matter of time before people can submit a DNA sample and obtain a rapid readout of particular genes, or their entire genome. Thus, anticipating the future, we decided to analyze a select set of autophagy-related (ATG) genes, with a focus on those encoding components of the Ubl conjugation systems, by a polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-based method that combines science with art.
autophagy; collaboration; gel electrophoresis; membrane; primer
Atg4 is required for cleaving Atg8, allowing it to be conjugated to phosphatidylethanolamine on phagophore membranes, a key step in autophagosome biogenesis. Deconjugation of Atg8 from autophagosomal membranes could be also a regulatory step in controlling autophagy. Therefore, the activity of Atg4 is important for autophagy and could be a target for therapeutic intervention. In this study, a sensitive and specific method to measure the activity of two Atg4 homologs in mammalian cells, Atg4A and Atg4B, was developed using a fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET)-based approach. Thus LC3B and GATE-16, two substrates that could be differentially cleaved by Atg4A and Atg4B, were fused with CFP and YFP at the N- and C-terminus, respectively, allowing FRET to occur. The FRET signals decreased in proportion to the Atg4-mediated cleavage, which separated the two fluorescent proteins. This method is highly efficient for measuring the enzymatic activity and kinetics of Atg4A and Atg4B under in vitro conditions. Applications of the assay indicated that the activity of Atg4B was dependent on its catalytic cysteine and expression level, but showed little changes under several common autophagy conditions. In addition, the assays displayed excellent performance in high throughput format and are suitable for screening and analysis of potential modulators. In summary, the FRET-based assay is simple and easy to use, is sensitive and specific, and is suitable for both routine measurement of Atg4 activity and high-throughput screening.
Atg4; Atg8; FRET assay; GATE-16; LC3B
Two ubiquitin-like molecules, Atg12 and LC3/Atg8, are involved in autophagosome biogenesis. Atg12 is conjugated to Atg5 and forms an ∼800-kDa protein complex with Atg16L (referred to as Atg16L complex). LC3/Atg8 is conjugated to phosphatidylethanolamine and is associated with autophagosome formation, perhaps by enabling membrane elongation. Although the Atg16L complex is required for efficient LC3 lipidation, its role is unknown. Here, we show that overexpression of Atg12 or Atg16L inhibits autophagosome formation. Mechanistically, the site of LC3 lipidation is determined by the membrane localization of the Atg16L complex as well as the interaction of Atg12 with Atg3, the E2 enzyme for the LC3 lipidation process. Forced localization of Atg16L to the plasma membrane enabled ectopic LC3 lipidation at that site. We propose that the Atg16L complex is a new type of E3-like enzyme that functions as a scaffold for LC3 lipidation by dynamically localizing to the putative source membranes for autophagosome formation.
Autophagy is a potent intracellular degradation process with pivotal roles in health and disease. Atg8, a lipid-conjugated ubiquitin-like protein, is required for the formation of autophagosomes, double-membrane vesicles responsible for the delivery of cytoplasmic material to lysosomes. How and when Atg8 functions in this process, however, is not clear. Here we show that Atg8 controls the expansion of the autophagosome precursor, the phagophore, and give the first real-time, observation-based temporal dissection of the autophagosome formation process. We demonstrate that the amount of Atg8 determines the size of autophagosomes. During autophagosome biogenesis, Atg8 forms an expanding structure and later dissociates from the site of vesicle formation. On the basis of the dynamics of Atg8, we present a multistage model of autophagosome formation. This model provides a foundation for future analyses of the functions and dynamics of known autophagy-related proteins and for screening new genes.
Autophagy is an evolutionarily conserved bulk-protein degradation pathway in which isolation membranes engulf the cytoplasmic constituents, and the resulting autophagosomes transport them to lysosomes. Two ubiquitin-like conjugation systems, termed Atg12 and Atg8 systems, are essential for autophagosomal formation. In addition to the pathophysiological roles of autophagy in mammals, recent mouse genetic studies have shown that the Atg8 system is predominantly under the control of the Atg12 system. To clarify the roles of the Atg8 system in mammalian autophagosome formation, we generated mice deficient in Atg3 gene encoding specific E2 enzyme for Atg8. Atg3-deficient mice were born but died within 1 d after birth. Conjugate formation of mammalian Atg8 homologues was completely defective in the mutant mice. Intriguingly, Atg12–Atg5 conjugation was markedly decreased in Atg3-deficient mice, and its dissociation from isolation membranes was significantly delayed. Furthermore, loss of Atg3 was associated with defective process of autophagosome formation, including the elongation and complete closure of the isolation membranes, resulting in malformation of the autophagosomes. The results indicate the essential role of the Atg8 system in the proper development of autophagic isolation membranes in mice.
The understanding of the membrane flow process during autophagosome formation is essential to illuminate the role of autophagy under various disease-causing conditions. Atg9 is the only identified integral membrane protein required for autophagosome formation, and it is thought to cycle between the membrane sources and the phagophore assembly site (PAS). Thus, Atg9 may play an important role as a membrane carrier. We report the self-interaction of Atg9 and generate an Atg9 mutant that is defective in this interaction. This mutation results in abnormal autophagy, due to altered phagophore formation as well as inefficient membrane delivery to the PAS. Based on our analyses, we discuss a model suggesting dual functions for the Atg9 complex: by reversibly binding to another Atg9 molecule, Atg9 can both promote lipid transport from the membrane origins to the PAS, and also help assemble an intact phagophore membrane.
membrane biogenesis; mitochondria; protein targeting; stress; vacuole; yeast
Macroautophagy mediates the degradation of long-lived proteins and organelles via the de novo formation of double-membrane autophagosomes that sequester cytoplasm and deliver it to the vacuole/lysosome; however, relatively little is known about autophagosome biogenesis. Atg8, a phosphatidylethanolamine-conjugated protein, was previously proposed to function in autophagosome membrane expansion, based on the observation that it mediates liposome tethering and hemifusion in vitro. We show here that with physiological concentrations of phosphatidylethanolamine, Atg8 does not act as a fusogen. Rather, we provide evidence for the involvement of exocytic Q/t-SNAREs in autophagosome formation, acting in the recruitment of key autophagy components to the site of autophagosome formation, and in regulating the organization of Atg9 into tubulovesicular clusters. Additionally, we found that the endosomal Q/t-SNARE Tlg2 and the R/v-SNAREs Sec22 and Ykt6 interact with Sso1-Sec9, and are required for normal Atg9 transport. Thus, multiple SNARE-mediated fusion events are likely to be involved in autophagosome biogenesis.
Atg9; fusion; lysosome; membrane biogenesis; protein targeting; secretory pathway; stress; tubulovesicular clusters; vacuole; yeast
Autophagy is an intracellular degradation process that is mediated by autophagosomes. Mammalian Atg2 proteins Atg2A and Atg2B are identified and characterized as essential for autophagy. They are also present on lipid droplets and are involved in regulation of lipid droplet volume and distribution.
Macroautophagy is an intracellular degradation system by which cytoplasmic materials are enclosed by the autophagosome and delivered to the lysosome. Autophagosome formation is considered to take place on the endoplasmic reticulum and involves functions of autophagy-related (Atg) proteins. Here, we report the identification and characterization of mammalian Atg2 homologues Atg2A and Atg2B. Simultaneous silencing of Atg2A and Atg2B causes a block in autophagic flux and accumulation of unclosed autophagic structures containing most Atg proteins. Atg2A localizes on the autophagic membrane, as well as on the surface of lipid droplets. The Atg2A region containing amino acids 1723–1829, which shows relatively high conservation among species, is required for localization to both the autophagic membrane and lipid droplet and is also essential for autophagy. Depletion of both Atg2A and Atg2B causes clustering of enlarged lipid droplets in an autophagy-independent manner. These data suggest that mammalian Atg2 proteins function both in autophagosome formation and regulation of lipid droplet morphology and dispersion.
Delivery of proteins and organelles to the vacuole by autophagy and the cytoplasm to vacuole targeting (Cvt) pathway involves novel rearrangements of membrane resulting in the formation of vesicles that fuse with the vacuole. The mechanism of vesicle formation and the origin of the membrane are complex issues still to be resolved. Atg18 and Atg21 are proteins essential to vesicle formation and together with Ygr223c form a novel family of phosphoinositide binding proteins that are associated with the vacuole and perivacuolar structures. Their localization requires the activity of Vps34, suggesting that phosphatidylinositol(3)phosphate may be essential for their function. The activity of Atg18 is vital for all forms of autophagy, whereas Atg21 is required for the Cvt pathway but not for nitrogen starvation-induced autophagy. The loss of Atg21 results in the absence of Atg8 from the pre-autophagosomal structure (PAS), which may be ascribed to a reduced rate of conjugation of Atg8 to phosphatidylethanolamine. A similar defect in localization of a second ubiquitin-like conjugate, Atg12-Atg5, suggests that Atg21 may be involved in the recruitment of membrane to the PAS.
The GAP activity of OATL1, which is recruited to autophagosomes by Atg8, regulates autophagosome–lysosome fusion.
Macroautophagy is a bulk degradation system conserved in all eukaryotic cells. A ubiquitin-like protein, Atg8, and its homologues are essential for autophagosome formation and act as a landmark for selective autophagy of aggregated proteins and damaged organelles. In this study, we report evidence demonstrating that OATL1, a putative Rab guanosine triphosphatase–activating protein (GAP), is a novel binding partner of Atg8 homologues in mammalian cells. OATL1 is recruited to isolation membranes and autophagosomes through direct interaction with Atg8 homologues and is involved in the fusion between autophagosomes and lysosomes through its GAP activity. We further provide evidence that Rab33B, an Atg16L1-binding protein, is a target substrate of OATL1 and is involved in the fusion between autophagosomes and lysosomes, the same as OATL1. Because both its GAP activity and its Atg8 homologue–binding activity are required for OATL1 to function, we propose a model that OATL1 uses Atg8 homologues as a scaffold to exert its GAP activity and to regulate autophagosomal maturation.
The Atg12–Atg5 conjugate was prepared by in vivo reconstitution and was crystallized with Atg16 using the free-interface diffusion method.
Autophagy mediates the bulk degradation of cytoplasmic components in lysosomes/vacuoles. Five autophagy-related (Atg) proteins are involved in a ubiquitin-like protein conjugation system. Atg12 is conjugated to its sole target, Atg5, by two enzymes, Atg7 and Atg10. The Atg12–Atg5 conjugates form a multimeric complex with Atg16. Formation of the Atg12–Atg5–Atg16 ternary complex is crucial for the functions of these proteins on autophagy. Here, the expression, purification and crystallization of the Atg12–Atg5 conjugate bound to the N-terminal region of Atg16 (Atg16N) are reported. The Atg12–Atg5 conjugates were formed by co-expressing Atg5, Atg7, Atg10 and Atg12 in Eschericia coli. The Atg12–Atg5–Atg16N ternary complex was formed by mixing purified Atg12–Atg5 conjugates and Atg16N, and was further purified by gel-filtration chromatography. Crystallization screening was performed by the free-interface diffusion method. Using obtained microcrystals as seeds, large crystals for diffraction data collection were obtained by the sitting-drop vapour-diffusion method. The crystal contained one ternary complex per asymmetric unit, and diffracted to 2.6 Å resolution.
autophagy; ubiquitin-like conjugation; crystallization; free-interface diffusion method
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.
Phosphorylation of phosphatidylinositol (PtdIns) by a PtdIns 3-kinase is an essential process in autophagy. Atg14, a specific subunit of one of the PtdIns 3-kinase complexes, targets the complex to the probable site of autophagosome formation, thereby, sorting the complex to function specifically in autophagy. The N-terminal half of Atg14, containing coiled-coil domains, is required to form the PtdIns 3-kinase complex and target it to the proper site. The C-terminal half of yeast Atg14 is suggested to be involved in the formation of a normal-sized autophagosome. The C-terminal half of mammalian Atg14 contains the Barkor/Atg14(L) autophagosome-targeting sequence (BATS) domain that preferentially binds to the highly curved membranes containing PtdIns(3)P and is proposed to target the PtdIns 3-kinase complex efficiently to the isolation membrane. Thus, the N- and C-terminal halves of Atg14 are likely to have an essential core function and a regulatory role, respectively.
In the process of autophagy, a ubiquitin-like molecule, LC3/Atg8, is conjugated to phosphatidylethanolamine (PE) and associates with forming autophagosomes. In mammalian cells, the existence of multiple Atg8 homologues (referred to as LC3 paralogues) has hampered genetic analysis of the lipidation of LC3 paralogues. Here, we show that overexpression of an inactive mutant of Atg4B, a protease that processes pro-LC3 paralogues, inhibits autophagic degradation and lipidation of LC3 paralogues. Inhibition was caused by sequestration of free LC3 paralogues in stable complexes with the Atg4B mutant. In mutant overexpressing cells, Atg5- and ULK1-positive intermediate autophagic structures accumulated. The length of these membrane structures was comparable to that in control cells; however, a significant number were not closed. These results show that the lipidation of LC3 paralogues is involved in the completion of autophagosome formation in mammalian cells. This study also provides a powerful tool for a wide variety of studies of autophagy in the future.
Autophagy-related (Atg) pathways deliver cytosol and organelles to the vacuole in double-membrane vesicles called autophagosomes, which are formed at the phagophore assembly site (PAS), where most of the core Atg proteins assemble. Atg28 is a component of the core autophagic machinery partially required for all Atg pathways in Pichia pastoris. This coiled-coil protein interacts with Atg17 and is essential for micropexophagy. However, the role of Atg28 in micropexophagy was unknown. We used the yeast two-hybrid system to search for Atg28 interaction partners from P. pastoris and identified a new Atg protein, named Atg35. The atg35Δ mutant was not affected in macropexophagy, cytoplasm-to-vacuole targeting or general autophagy. However, both Atg28 and Atg35 were required for micropexophagy and for the formation of the micropexophagic apparatus (MIPA). This requirement correlated with a stronger expression of both proteins on methanol and glucose. Atg28 mediated the interaction of Atg35 with Atg17. Trafficking of overexpressed Atg17 from the peripheral ER to the nuclear envelope was required to organize a peri-nuclear structure (PNS), the site of Atg35 colocalization during micropexophagy. In summary, Atg35 is a new Atg protein that relocates to the PNS and specifically regulates MIPA formation during micropexophagy.
Atg protein; peroxisome; micropexophagy; MIPA; nucleus
Mammalian Atg9 (mAtg9) is a multispanning membrane protein that resides in a novel compartment. mAtg9 interacts dynamically with phagophores and forming autophagosomes. It is proposed that mAtg9 function is required to initiate autophagosome formation and increase the number of autophagosomes.
Autophagy is a catabolic process essential for cell homeostasis, at the core of which is the formation of double-membrane organelles called autophagosomes. Atg9 is the only known transmembrane protein required for autophagy and is proposed to deliver membrane to the preautophagosome structures and autophagosomes. We show here that mammalian Atg9 (mAtg9) is required for the formation of DFCP1-positive autophagosome precursors called phagophores. mAtg9 is recruited to phagophores independent of early autophagy proteins, such as ULK1 and WIPI2, but does not become a stable component of the autophagosome membrane. In fact, mAtg9-positive structures interact dynamically with phagophores and autophagosomes without being incorporated into them. The membrane compartment enriched in mAtg9 displays a unique sedimentation profile, which is unaltered upon starvation-induced autophagy. Correlative light electron microscopy reveals that mAtg9 is present on tubular–vesicular membranes emanating from vacuolar structures. We show that mAtg9 resides in a unique endosomal-like compartment and on endosomes, including recycling endosomes, where it interacts with the transferrin receptor. We propose that mAtg9 trafficking through multiple organelles, including recycling endosomes, is essential for the initiation and progression of autophagy; however, rather than acting as a structural component of the autophagosome, it is required for the expansion of the autophagosome precursor.
Human Atg4B and LC3 were expressed, purified and crystallized as a complex. Diffraction data were collected to a resolution of 1.9 Å.
The reversible modification of Atg8 with phosphatidylethanolamine (PE) is crucial for autophagy, the bulk degradation process of cytoplasmic components by the vacuolar/lysosomal system. Atg4 is a cysteine protease that is responsible for the processing and deconjugation of Atg8. Human Atg4B (HsAtg4B; a mammalian orthologue of yeast Atg4) and LC3 (a mammalian orthologue of yeast Atg8) were expressed and purified and two complexes, one consisting of HsAtg4B(1–354) and LC3(1–120) (complex I; the product complex) and the other consisting of HsAtg4B(1–354) and LC3(1–124) (complex II; the substrate complex), were crystallized using polyethylene glycol 3350 as a precipitant. In both complexes His280 of HsAtg4B was mutated to alanine. The crystals belong to the same space group P212121, with unit-cell parameters a = 47.5, b = 91.8, c = 102.6 Å for complex I and a = 46.9, b = 90.9, c = 102.5 Å for complex II. Diffraction data were collected to a resolution of 1.9 Å from both crystals.
Atg8; autophagy; LC3
Autophagy is a membrane-trafficking mechanism that delivers cytoplasmic constituents into the lysosome/vacuole for bulk protein degradation. This mechanism is involved in the preservation of nutrients under starvation condition as well as the normal turnover of cytoplasmic component. Aberrant autophagy has been reported in several neurodegenerative disorders, hepatitis, and myopathies. Here, we generated conditional knockout mice of Atg7, an essential gene for autophagy in yeast. Atg7 was essential for ATG conjugation systems and autophagosome formation, amino acid supply in neonates, and starvation-induced bulk degradation of proteins and organelles in mice. Furthermore, Atg7 deficiency led to multiple cellular abnormalities, such as appearance of concentric membranous structure and deformed mitochondria, and accumulation of ubiquitin-positive aggregates. Our results indicate the important role of autophagy in starvation response and the quality control of proteins and organelles in quiescent cells.
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.
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.
Cdc48/p97/VCP plays a ubiquitin-independent role during autophagosome formation in S. cerevisiae.
The molecular details of the biogenesis of double-membraned autophagosomes are poorly understood. We identify the Saccharomyces cerevisiae AAA–adenosine triphosphatase Cdc48 and its substrate-recruiting cofactor Shp1/Ubx1 as novel components needed for autophagosome biogenesis. In mammals, the Cdc48 homologue p97/VCP and the Shp1 homologue p47 mediate Golgi reassembly by extracting an unknown monoubiquitinated fusion regulator from a complex. We find no requirement of ubiquitination or the proteasome system for autophagosome biogenesis but detect interaction of Shp1 with the ubiquitin-fold autophagy protein Atg8. Atg8 coupled to phosphatidylethanolamine (PE) is crucial for autophagosome elongation and, in vitro, mediates tethering and hemifusion. Interaction with Shp1 requires an FK motif within the N-terminal non–ubiquitin-like Atg8 domain. Based on our data, we speculate that autophagosome formation, in contrast to Golgi reassembly, requires a complex in which Atg8 functionally substitutes ubiquitin. This, for the first time, would give a rationale for use of the ubiquitin-like Atg8 during macroautophagy and would explain why Atg8-PE delipidation is necessary for efficient macroautophagy.
Leishmania major possesses, apparently uniquely, four families of ATG8-like genes, designated ATG8, ATG8A, ATG8B and ATG8C, and 25 genes in total. L. major ATG8 and examples from the ATG8A, ATG8B and ATG8C families are able to complement a Saccharomyces cerevisiae ATG8-deficient strain, indicating functional conservation. Whereas ATG8 has been shown to form putative autophagosomes during differentiation and starvation of L. major, ATG8A primarily form puncta in response to starvation - indicating a role for ATG8A in starvation-induced autophagy. Recombinant ATG8A was processed at the scissile glycine by recombinant ATG4.2 but not ATG4.1 cysteine peptidases of L. major and, consistent with this, ATG4.2-deficient L. major mutants were unable to process ATG8A and were less able to withstand starvation than wild type cells. GFP-ATG8-containing puncta were less abundant in ATG4.2 over-expression lines, in which unlipidated ATG8 predominated, which is consistent with ATG4.2 being an ATG8-deconjugating enzyme as well as an ATG8A-processing enzyme. In contrast, recombinant ATG8, ATG8B and ATG8C were all processed by ATG4.1, but not by ATG4.2. ATG8B and ATG8C both have a distinct subcellular location close to the flagellar pocket, but the occurrence of the GFP-labelled puncta suggest that they do not have a role in autophagy. L. major genes encoding possible ATG5, ATG10 and ATG12 homologues were found to complement their respective S. cerevisiae mutants, and ATG12 localised in part to ATG8-containing puncta, suggestive of a functional ATG5-ATG12 conjugation pathway in the parasite. L. major ATG12 is unusual as it requires C-terminal processing by an as yet unidentified peptidase.
autophagy; Leishmania; protozoan parasite; ATG4; ATG8; ATG12
Autophagy induced by nutrient depletion is involved in survival during starvation conditions. In addition to starvation-induced autophagy, the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae also has a constitutive autophagy-like system, the Cvt pathway. Among 31 autophagy-related (Atg) proteins, the function of Atg17, Atg29, and Atg31 is required specifically for autophagy. In this study, we investigated the role of autophagy-specific (i.e., non-Cvt) proteins under autophagy-inducing conditions. For this purpose, we used atg11Δ cells in which the Cvt pathway is abrogated. The autophagy-unique proteins are required for the localization of Atg proteins to the pre-autophagosomal structure (PAS), the putative site for autophagosome formation, under starvation condition. It is likely that these Atg proteins function as a ternary complex, because Atg29 and Atg31 bind to Atg17. The Atg1 kinase complex (Atg1–Atg13) is also essential for recruitment of Atg proteins to the PAS. The assembly of Atg proteins to the PAS is observed only under autophagy-inducing conditions, indicating that this structure is specifically involved in autophagosome formation. Our results suggest that Atg1 complex and the autophagy-unique Atg proteins cooperatively organize the PAS in response to starvation signals.
Erythrocyte formation involves the elimination of mitochondria at the reticulocyte stage of development. Nix−/− reticulocytes fail to eliminate their mitochondria at this step due to a defect in the targeting of mitochondria to autophagosomes. To determine the role of autophagy in this process, we generated Atg7−/− transplant mice. Atg7−/− reticulocytes exhibit a partial defect in mitochondrial clearance, demonstrating that there are both autophagy-dependent and -independent mechanisms of mitochondrial clearance. We used Atg7−/− autophagy-defective reticulocytes to study temporal events in mitochondrial clearance. Mitochondrial depolarization precedes elimination, but in Atg7−/− reticulocytes the depolarization event is markedly delayed. Since Atg7 regulates autophagosome formation, we infer that mitochondrial depolarization occurs downstream of autophagosome formation in reticulocytes. We propose that there are two mechanisms of mitochondrial clearance: one that is triggered by mitochondrial depolarization, and a second NIX-dependent mechanism, which is not. The NIX-dependent mechanism remains to be elucidated.
reticulocyte; autophagy; mitophagy; mitochondria; NIX; Atg7; mitochondrial depolarization; mitochondrial clearance
Autophagy is a membrane-mediated degradation process, which is governed by sequential functions of Atg proteins. Although Atg proteins are highly conserved in eukaryotes, protozoa possess only a partial set of Atg proteins. Nonetheless, almost all protozoa have the complete factors belonging to the Atg8 conjugation system, namely, Atg3, Atg4, Atg7, and Atg8. Here, we report the biochemical properties and subcellular localization of the Atg8 protein of the human malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum (PfAtg8). PfAtg8 is expressed during intra-erythrocytic development and associates with membranes likely as a lipid-conjugated form. Fluorescence microscopy and immunoelectron microscopy show that PfAtg8 localizes to the apicoplast, a four membrane-bound non-photosynthetic plastid. Autophagosome-like structures are not observed in the erythrocytic stages. These data suggest that, although Plasmodium parasites have lost most Atg proteins during evolution, they use the Atg8 conjugation system for the unique organelle, the apicoplast.
Autophagy is a catabolic pathway for the degradation of cytosolic proteins or organelles and is conserved among all eukaryotic cells. The hallmark of autophagy is the formation of double-membrane cytosolic vesicles, termed autophagosomes, which sequester cytoplasm; however, the mechanism of vesicle formation and the membrane source remain unclear. In the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, selective autophagy mediates the delivery of specific cargos to the vacuole, the analog of the mammalian lysosome. The transmembrane protein Atg9 cycles between the mitochondria and the pre-autophagosomal structure, which is the site of autophagosome biogenesis. Atg9 is thought to mediate the delivery of membrane to the forming autophagosome. Here, we characterize a second transmembrane protein Atg27 that is required for specific autophagy in yeast. Atg27 is required for Atg9 cycling and shuttles between the pre-autophagosomal structure, mitochondria, and the Golgi complex. These data support a hypothesis that multiple membrane sources supply the lipids needed for autophagosome formation.