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1.  Acetyl-coenzyme A 
Autophagy  2014;10(7):1335-1337.
As the major lysosomal degradation pathway, autophagy represents the guardian of cellular homeostasis, removing damaged and potentially harmful material and replenishing energy reserves in conditions of starvation. Given its vast physiological importance, autophagy is crucially involved in the process of aging and associated pathologies. Although the regulation of autophagy strongly depends on nutrient availability, specific metabolites that modulate autophagic responses are poorly described. Recently, we revealed nucleo-cytosolic acetyl-coenzyme A (AcCoA) as a phylogenetically conserved inhibitor of starvation-induced and age-associated autophagy. AcCoA is the sole acetyl-group donor for protein acetylation, explaining why pharmacological or genetic manipulations that modify the concentrations of nucleo-cytosolic AcCoA directly affect the levels of protein acetylation. The acetylation of histones and cytosolic proteins inversely correlates with the rate of autophagy in yeast and mammalian cells, respectively, despite the fact that the routes of de novo AcCoA synthesis differ across phyla. Thus, we propose nucleo-cytosolic AcCoA to act as a conserved metabolic rheostat, linking the cellular metabolic state to the regulation of autophagy via effects on protein acetylation.
PMCID: PMC4203557  PMID: 24904996
autophagy; aging; acetyl-coenzyme A; histone acetylation; transcription; epigenetics; ATG
2.  Coffee induces autophagy in vivo 
Cell Cycle  2014;13(12):1987-1994.
Epidemiological studies and clinical trials revealed that chronic consumption coffee is associated with the inhibition of several metabolic diseases as well as reduction in overall and cause-specific mortality. We show that both natural and decaffeinated brands of coffee similarly rapidly trigger autophagy in mice. One to 4 h after coffee consumption, we observed an increase in autophagic flux in all investigated organs (liver, muscle, heart) in vivo, as indicated by the increased lipidation of LC3B and the reduction of the abundance of the autophagic substrate sequestosome 1 (p62/SQSTM1). These changes were accompanied by the inhibition of the enzymatic activity of mammalian target of rapamycin complex 1 (mTORC1), leading to the reduced phosphorylation of p70S6K, as well as by the global deacetylation of cellular proteins detectable by immunoblot. Immunohistochemical analyses of transgenic mice expressing a GFP–LC3B fusion protein confirmed the coffee-induced relocation of LC3B to autophagosomes, as well as general protein deacetylation. Altogether, these results indicate that coffee triggers 2 phenomena that are also induced by nutrient depletion, namely a reduction of protein acetylation coupled to an increase in autophagy. We speculate that polyphenols contained in coffee promote health by stimulating autophagy.
PMCID: PMC4111762  PMID: 24769862
acetyl-coenzyme A; acetylation; mTOR; macroautophagy
3.  A histone point mutation that switches on autophagy 
Autophagy  2014;10(6):1143-1145.
The multifaceted process of aging inevitably leads to disturbances in cellular metabolism and protein homeostasis. To meet this challenge, cells make use of autophagy, which is probably one of the most important pathways preserving cellular protection under stressful conditions. Thus, efficient autophagic flux is required for healthy aging in many if not all eukaryotic organisms. The regulation of autophagy itself is affected by changing metabolic conditions, but the precise metabolic circuitries are poorly understood. Recently, we found that the nucleocytosolic pool of acetyl-coenzyme A (AcCoA) functions as a major and dominant suppressor of cytoprotective autophagy during aging. Here, we propose an epigenetic mechanism for AcCoA-mediated autophagy suppression that causally involves the regulation of histone acetylation and changes in the autophagy-relevant transcriptome.
PMCID: PMC4091175  PMID: 24879160
acetyl-coenzyme A; aging; ATG; autophagy; epigenetic; histone acetylation; transcription
4.  Mechanisms of apoptotic phosphatidylserine exposure 
Cell Research  2013;23(11):1247-1248.
It has been a long-standing enigma which scramblase causes phosphatidylserine residues to be exposed on the surface of apoptotic cells, thereby facilitating the phagocytic recognition, engulfment and destruction of apoptotic corpses. In a recent paper in Science, Nagata and coworkers reveal that the scramblases Xkr8 and its C. elegans ortholog, CED-8, are activated by caspase cleavage in apoptotic cells.
PMCID: PMC3817543  PMID: 23979019
5.  ATG4B/autophagin-1 regulates intestinal homeostasis and protects mice from experimental colitis 
Autophagy  2013;9(8):1188-1200.
The identification of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) susceptibility genes by genome-wide association has linked this pathology to autophagy, a lysosomal degradation pathway that is crucial for cell and tissue homeostasis. Here, we describe autophagy-related 4B, cysteine peptidase/autophagin-1 (ATG4B) as an essential protein in the control of inflammatory response during experimental colitis. In this pathological condition, ATG4B protein levels increase in parallel with the induction of autophagy. Moreover, ATG4B expression is significantly reduced in affected areas of the colon from IBD patients. Consistently, atg4b−/− mice present Paneth cell abnormalities, as well as an increased susceptibility to DSS-induced colitis. atg4b-deficient mice exhibit significant alterations in proinflammatory cytokines and mediators of the immune response to bacterial infections, which are reminiscent of those found in patients with Crohn disease or ulcerative colitis. Additionally, antibiotic treatments and bone marrow transplantation from wild-type mice reduced colitis in atg4b−/− mice. Taken together, these results provided additional evidence for the importance of autophagy in intestinal pathologies and describe ATG4B as a novel protective protein in inflammatory colitis. Finally, we propose that atg4b-null mice are a suitable model for in vivo studies aimed at testing new therapeutic strategies for intestinal diseases associated with autophagy deficiency.
PMCID: PMC3748191  PMID: 23782979
ATG4B; autophagin-1; autophagy; colitis; inflammation; intestinal homeostasis; cysteine peptidase; Paneth cell
6.  Lifespan Extension by Methionine Restriction Requires Autophagy-Dependent Vacuolar Acidification 
PLoS Genetics  2014;10(5):e1004347.
Reduced supply of the amino acid methionine increases longevity across species through an as yet elusive mechanism. Here, we report that methionine restriction (MetR) extends yeast chronological lifespan in an autophagy-dependent manner. Single deletion of several genes essential for autophagy (ATG5, ATG7 or ATG8) fully abolished the longevity-enhancing capacity of MetR. While pharmacological or genetic inhibition of TOR1 increased lifespan in methionine-prototroph yeast, TOR1 suppression failed to extend the longevity of methionine-restricted yeast cells. Notably, vacuole-acidity was specifically enhanced by MetR, a phenotype that essentially required autophagy. Overexpression of vacuolar ATPase components (Vma1p or Vph2p) suffices to increase chronological lifespan of methionine-prototrophic yeast. In contrast, lifespan extension upon MetR was prevented by inhibition of vacuolar acidity upon disruption of the vacuolar ATPase. In conclusion, autophagy promotes lifespan extension upon MetR and requires the subsequent stimulation of vacuolar acidification, while it is epistatic to the equally autophagy-dependent anti-aging pathway triggered by TOR1 inhibition or deletion.
Author Summary
Health- or lifespan-prolonging regimes would be beneficial at both the individual and the social level. Nevertheless, up to date only very few experimental settings have been proven to promote longevity in mammals. Among them is the reduction of food intake (caloric restriction) or the pharmacological administration of caloric restriction mimetics like rapamycin. The latter one, however, is accompanied by not yet fully estimated and undesirable side effects. In contrast, the limitation of one specific amino acid, namely methionine, which has also been demonstrated to elongate the lifespan of mammals, has the advantage of being a well applicable regime. Therefore, understanding the underlying mechanism of the anti-aging effects of methionine restriction is of crucial importance. With the help of the model organism yeast, we show that limitation in methionine drastically enhances autophagy, a cellular process of self-digestion that is also switched on during caloric restriction. Moreover, we demonstrate that this occurs in causal conjunction with an efficient pH decrease in the organelle responsible for the digestive capacity of the cell (the vacuole). Finally, we prove that autophagy-dependent vacuolar acidification is necessary for methionine restriction-mediated lifespan extension.
PMCID: PMC4006742  PMID: 24785424
7.  Self-consumption: the interplay of autophagy and apoptosis 
Autophagy and apoptosis control the turnover of organelles and proteins within cells, and of cells within organisms, respectively, and many stress pathways sequentially elicit autophagy, and apoptosis within the same cell. Generally autophagy blocks the induction of apoptosis, and apoptosis-associated caspase activation shuts off the autophagic process. However, in special cases, autophagy or autophagy-relevant proteins may help to induce apoptosis or necrosis, and autophagy has been shown to degrade the cytoplasm excessively, leading to ‘autophagic cell death’. The dialogue between autophagy and cell death pathways influences the normal clearance of dying cells, as well as immune recognition of dead cell antigens. Therefore, the disruption of the relationship between autophagy and apoptosis has important pathophysiological consequences.
PMCID: PMC3970201  PMID: 24401948
8.  Nucleocytosolic Depletion of the Energy Metabolite Acetyl-Coenzyme A Stimulates Autophagy and Prolongs Lifespan 
Cell Metabolism  2014;19(3):431-444.
Healthy aging depends on removal of damaged cellular material that is in part mediated by autophagy. The nutritional status of cells affects both aging and autophagy through as-yet-elusive metabolic circuitries. Here, we show that nucleocytosolic acetyl-coenzyme A (AcCoA) production is a metabolic repressor of autophagy during aging in yeast. Blocking the mitochondrial route to AcCoA by deletion of the CoA-transferase ACH1 caused cytosolic accumulation of the AcCoA precursor acetate. This led to hyperactivation of nucleocytosolic AcCoA-synthetase Acs2p, triggering histone acetylation, repression of autophagy genes, and an age-dependent defect in autophagic flux, culminating in a reduced lifespan. Inhibition of nutrient signaling failed to restore, while simultaneous knockdown of ACS2 reinstated, autophagy and survival of ach1 mutant. Brain-specific knockdown of Drosophila AcCoA synthetase was sufficient to enhance autophagic protein clearance and prolong lifespan. Since AcCoA integrates various nutrition pathways, our findings may explain diet-dependent lifespan and autophagy regulation.
Graphical Abstract
•Acetyl-CoA (AcCoA) metabolism regulates autophagy during aging•Autophagy regulation by AcCoA metabolism acts downstream of nutrient signaling•Brain-specific knockdown of Drosophila AcCoA synthetase prolongs lifespan•Histone point mutations permanently activate autophagy during aging
Autophagy plays a crucial role in healthy aging. By blocking mitochondrial AcCoA production, Eisenberg et al. show that accumulation of nucleocytosolic AcCoA inhibits autophagy and reduces lifespan through a conserved epigenetic mechanism involving histone acetylation of specific autophagy genes in yeast and flies.
PMCID: PMC3988959  PMID: 24606900
9.  Direct interaction between STAT3 and EIF2AK2 controls fatty acid-induced autophagy 
Autophagy  2013;9(3):415-417.
A chemical screen designed to identify novel inducers of autophagy led to the discovery that signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 (STAT3) inhibitors can potently stimulate the autophagic flux. Although STAT3 is best known as a pro-inflammatory and oncogenic transcription factor, mechanistic analyses revealed that autophagy is regulated by the cytoplasmic, not nuclear, pool of STAT3. Cytoplasmic STAT3 normally interacts with the eukaryotic translation initiation factor 2, subunit 1α, 35kDa (EIF2S1/eIF2α) kinase 2/protein kinase, RNA-activated (EIF2AK2/PKR), a sensor of double-stranded RNA. This interaction, which could be recapitulated using recombinant proteins in pull-down experiments, involves the catalytic domain of EIF2AK2 as well as the SH2 domain of STAT3, which can adopt a fold similar to that of EIF2S1. Thus, STAT3 may act as a competitive inhibitor of EIF2AK2. Indeed, pharmacological or genetic inhibition of STAT3 stimulates EIF2AK2-dependent EIF2S1 phosphorylation and autophagy. Conversely, the overexpression of wild-type STAT3 as well as of STAT3 mutants that cannot be phosphorylated by JAK2 or are excluded from the nucleus inhibits autophagy. However, STAT3 mutants that fail to interact with EIF2AK2 are unable to suppress autophagy. Both STAT3-targeting agents (i.e., Stattic, JSI-124 and WP1066) and EIF2AK2 activators (such as the double-strand RNA mimetic polyinosinic:polycytidylic acid) are capable of disrupting the inhibitory interaction between STAT3 and EIF2AK2 in cellula, yet only the latter does so in cell-free systems in vitro. A further screen designed to identify EIF2AK2-dependent autophagy inducers revealed that several fatty acids including palmitate trigger autophagy via a pathway that involves the disruption of the STAT3-EIF2AK2 complex as well as the phosphorylation of mitogen-activated protein kinase 8/c-Jun N-terminal kinase 1 (MAPK8/JNK1) and EIF2S1. These results reveal an unsuspected crosstalk between cellular metabolism (fatty acids), pro-inflammatory signaling (STAT3), innate immunity (EIF2AK2), and translational control (EIF2S1) that regulates autophagy.
PMCID: PMC3590262  PMID: 23221979
EIF2S1S51A; endoplasmic reticulum; IRS1; palmitate; polyI:C; STAT3Y705F
10.  Pro-autophagic polyphenols reduce the acetylation of cytoplasmic proteins 
Cell Cycle  2012;11(20):3851-3860.
Resveratrol is a polyphenol contained in red wine that has been amply investigated for its beneficial effects on organismal metabolism, in particular in the context of the so-called “French paradox,” i.e., the relatively low incidence of coronary heart disease exhibited by a population with a high dietary intake of cholesterol and saturated fats. At least part of the beneficial effect of resveratrol on human health stems from its capacity to promote autophagy by activating the NAD-dependent deacetylase sirtuin 1. However, the concentration of resveratrol found in red wine is excessively low to account alone for the French paradox. Here, we investigated the possibility that other mono- and polyphenols contained in red wine might induce autophagy while affecting the acetylation levels of cellular proteins. Phenolic compounds found in red wine, including anthocyanins (oenin), stilbenoids (piceatannol), monophenols (caffeic acid, gallic acid) glucosides (delphinidin, kuronamin, peonidin) and flavonoids (catechin, epicatechin, quercetin, myricetin), were all capable of stimulating autophagy, although with dissimilar potencies. Importantly, a robust negative correlation could be established between autophagy induction and the acetylation levels of cytoplasmic proteins, as determined by a novel immunofluorescence staining protocol that allows for the exclusion of nuclear components from the analysis. Inhibition of sirtuin 1 by both pharmacological and genetic means abolished protein deacetylation and autophagy as stimulated by resveratrol, but not by piceatannol, indicating that these compounds act through distinct molecular pathways. In support of this notion, resveratrol and piceatannol synergized in inducing autophagy as well as in promoting cytoplasmic protein deacetylation. Our results highlight a cause-effect relationship between the deacetylation of cytoplasmic proteins and autophagy induction by red wine components.
PMCID: PMC3495827  PMID: 23070521
Beclin 1; LC3; longevity; p62/SQSTM1; trichostatin A; U2OS
13.  Selective killing of p53-deficient cancer cells by SP600125 
EMBO Molecular Medicine  2012;4(6):500-514.
The genetic or functional inactivation of p53 is highly prevalent in human cancers. Using high-content videomicroscopy based on fluorescent TP53+/+ and TP53−/− human colon carcinoma cells, we discovered that SP600125, a broad-spectrum serine/threonine kinase inhibitor, kills p53-deficient cells more efficiently than their p53-proficient counterparts, in vitro. Similar observations were obtained in vivo, in mice carrying p53-deficient and -proficient human xenografts. Such a preferential cytotoxicity could be attributed to the failure of p53-deficient cells to undergo cell cycle arrest in response to SP600125. TP53−/− (but not TP53+/+) cells treated with SP600125 became polyploid upon mitotic abortion and progressively succumbed to mitochondrial apoptosis. The expression of an SP600125-resistant variant of the mitotic kinase MPS1 in TP53−/− cells reduced SP600125-induced polyploidization. Thus, by targeting MPS1, SP600125 triggers a polyploidization program that cannot be sustained by TP53−/− cells, resulting in the activation of mitotic catastrophe, an oncosuppressive mechanism for the eradication of mitosis-incompetent cells.
PMCID: PMC3443949  PMID: 22438244
caspases; HCT 116; high-throughput screening; mitochondrial outer membrane permeabilization; MPS1
14.  Spermidine and resveratrol induce autophagy by distinct pathways converging on the acetylproteome 
The Journal of Cell Biology  2011;192(4):615-629.
The acetylase inhibitor spermidine and the sirtuin-1 activator resveratrol disrupt the antagonistic network of acetylases and deacetylases that regulate autophagy.
Autophagy protects organelles, cells, and organisms against several stress conditions. Induction of autophagy by resveratrol requires the nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide–dependent deacetylase sirtuin 1 (SIRT1). In this paper, we show that the acetylase inhibitor spermidine stimulates autophagy independent of SIRT1 in human and yeast cells as well as in nematodes. Although resveratrol and spermidine ignite autophagy through distinct mechanisms, these compounds stimulate convergent pathways that culminate in concordant modifications of the acetylproteome. Both agents favor convergent deacetylation and acetylation reactions in the cytosol and in the nucleus, respectively. Both resveratrol and spermidine were able to induce autophagy in cytoplasts (enucleated cells). Moreover, a cytoplasm-restricted mutant of SIRT1 could stimulate autophagy, suggesting that cytoplasmic deacetylation reactions dictate the autophagic cascade. At doses at which neither resveratrol nor spermidine stimulated autophagy alone, these agents synergistically induced autophagy. Altogether, these data underscore the importance of an autophagy regulatory network of antagonistic deacetylases and acetylases that can be pharmacologically manipulated.
PMCID: PMC3044119  PMID: 21339330
15.  Autophagy and the integrated stress response 
Molecular cell  2010;40(2):280-293.
Autophagy is a tightly regulated pathway involving the lysosomal degradation of cytoplasmic organelles or cytosolic components. This pathway can be stimulated by multiple forms of cellular stress, including nutrient or growth factor deprivation, hypoxia, reactive oxygen species, DNA damage, protein aggregates, damaged organelles or intracellular pathogens. Both specific, stimulus-dependent and more general stimulus-independent signaling pathways are activated to coordinate different phases of autophagy. Autophagy can be integrated with other cellular stress responses through parallel stimulation of autophagy and other stress responses by specific stress stimuli, through dual regulation of autophagy and other stress responses by multi-functional stress signaling molecules, and/or through mutual control of autophagy and other stress responses. Thus, autophagy is a cell biological process that is a central component of the integrated stress response.
PMCID: PMC3127250  PMID: 20965422
16.  Rejuvenating somatotropic signaling: a therapeutical opportunity for premature aging? 
Aging (Albany NY)  2010;2(12):1017-1022.
We have recently reported that progeroid Zmpste24−/− mice, which exhibit multiple defects that phenocopy Hutchinson-Gilford progeria syndrome, show a profound dysregulation of somatotropic axis, mainly characterized by the occurrence of very high circulating levels of growth hormone (GH) and a drastic reduction in insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1). We have also shown that restoration of the proper GH/IGF-1 balance in Zmpste24−/− mice by treatment with recombinant IGF-1 delays the onset of many progeroid features in these animals and significantly extends their lifespan. Here, we summarize these observations and discuss the importance of GH/IGF-1 balance in longevity as well as its modulation as a putative therapeutic strategy for the treatment of human progeroid syndromes.
PMCID: PMC3034170  PMID: 21212467
progeria; cancer; growth hormone; insulin-like growth factor; longevity
17.  Autophagy is essential for mouse sense of balance 
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  2010;120(7):2331-2344.
Autophagy is an evolutionarily conserved process that is essential for cellular homeostasis and organismal viability in eukaryotes. However, the extent of its functions in higher-order processes of organismal physiology and behavior is still unknown. Here, we report that autophagy is essential for the maintenance of balance in mice and that its deficiency leads to severe balance disorders. We generated mice deficient in autophagin-1 protease (Atg4b) and showed that they had substantial systemic reduction of autophagic activity. Autophagy reduction occurred through defective proteolytic processing of the autophagosome component LC3 and its paralogs, which compromised the rate of autophagosome maturation. Despite their viability, Atg4b-null mice showed unusual patterns of behavior that are common features of inner ear pathologies. Consistent with this, Atg4b-null mice showed defects in the development of otoconia, organic calcium carbonate crystals essential for sense of balance (equilibrioception). Furthermore, these abnormalities were exacerbated in Atg5–/– mice, which completely lack the ability to perform autophagy, confirming that autophagic activity is necessary for otoconial biogenesis. Autophagy deficiency also led to impaired secretion and assembly of otoconial core proteins, thus hampering otoconial development. Taken together, these results describe an essential role for autophagy in inner ear development and equilibrioception and open new possibilities for understanding and treating human balance disorders, which are of growing relevance among the elderly population.
PMCID: PMC2898610  PMID: 20577052

Results 1-17 (17)