Autophagy is the mechanism by which cytoplasmic components and organelles are degraded by the lysosomal machinery in response to diverse stimuli including nutrient deprivation, intracellular pathogens, and multiple forms of cellular stress. Here, we show that the membrane-associated E3 ligase RNF5 regulates basal levels of autophagy by controlling the stability of a select pool of the cysteine protease ATG4B. RNF5 controls the membranal fraction of ATG4B and limits LC3 (ATG8) processing, which is required for phagophore and autophagosome formation. The association of ATG4B with—and regulation of its ubiquitination and stability by—RNF5 is seen primarily under normal growth conditions. Processing of LC3 forms, appearance of LC3-positive puncta, and p62 expression are higher in RNF5−/− MEF. RNF5 mutant, which retains its E3 ligase activity but does not associate with ATG4B, no longer affects LC3 puncta. Further, increased puncta seen in RNF5−/− using WT but not LC3 mutant, which bypasses ATG4B processing, substantiates the role of RNF5 in early phases of LC3 processing and autophagy. Similarly, RNF-5 inactivation in Caenorhabditis elegans increases the level of LGG-1/LC3::GFP puncta. RNF5−/− mice are more resistant to group A Streptococcus infection, associated with increased autophagosomes and more efficient bacterial clearance by RNF5−/− macrophages. Collectively, the RNF5-mediated control of membranalATG4B reveals a novel layer in the regulation of LC3 processing and autophagy.
Autophagy is an intracellular catabolic process by which a cell's own components are degraded through the lysosomal machinery. Autophagy is implicated in various cellular processes such as growth and development, cancer, and inflammation. Using biochemistry, cell biology, and genetic models, we identify a ubiquitin ligase that limits autophagy in the absence of an inducing stimulus (e.g. starvation). The control of basal autophagy is mediated by the ubiquitin ligase RNF5 through its regulation of the membrane-associated ATG4B protease. Using RNF5 mutant mice we demonstrate the implications of this regulation for host defense mechanisms that limit intracellular infection by bacterial pathogens.