The interactions between viruses and cellular autophagy have been widely reported. On the one hand, autophagy is an important innate immune response against viral infection. On the other hand, some viruses exploit the autophagy pathway for their survival and proliferation in host cells. Vaccinia virus is a member of the family of Poxviridae which includes the smallpox virus. The biogenesis of vaccinia envelopes, including the core envelope of the immature virus (IV), is not fully understood. In this study we investigated the possible interaction between vaccinia virus and the autophagy membrane biogenesis machinery. Massive LC3 lipidation was observed in mouse fibroblast cells upon vaccinia virus infection. Surprisingly, the vaccinia virus induced LC3 lipidation was shown to be independent of ATG5 and ATG7, as the atg5 and atg7 null mouse embryonic fibroblasts (MEFs) exhibited the same high levels of LC3 lipidation as compared with the wild-type MEFs. Mass spectrometry and immunoblotting analyses revealed that the viral infection led to the direct conjugation of ATG3, which is the E2-like enzyme required for LC3-phosphoethanonamine conjugation, to ATG12, which is a component of the E3-like ATG12–ATG5-ATG16 complex for LC3 lipidation. Consistently, ATG3 was shown to be required for the vaccinia virus induced LC3 lipidation. Strikingly, despite the high levels of LC3 lipidation, subsequent electron microscopy showed that vaccinia virus-infected cells were devoid of autophagosomes, either in normal growth medium or upon serum and amino acid deprivation. In addition, no autophagy flux was observed in virus-infected cells. We further demonstrated that neither ATG3 nor LC3 lipidation is crucial for viral membrane biogenesis or viral proliferation and infection. Together, these results indicated that vaccinia virus does not exploit the cellular autophagic membrane biogenesis machinery for their viral membrane production. Moreover, this study demonstrated that vaccinia virus instead actively disrupts the cellular autophagy through a novel molecular mechanism that is associated with aberrant LC3 lipidation and a direct conjugation between ATG12 and ATG3.
ATG12; ATG3; autophagy; LC3 lipidation; vaccinia virus
Recent work has revealed that autophagy plays a significant role in the process of white adipocyte differentiation. In both in vitro and in vivo model systems, autophagy inactivation by targeted deletion of essential autophagy genes results in alterations in white adipocyte structure. In both models, postdifferentiation cells exhibit atypical morphology, with many small lipid droplets and large numbers of mitochondria, rather than the single large lipid droplet and relatively few mitochondria observed in normal white adipocytes. The role of autophagy as the primary means of the degradation of mitochondria has long been studied, and it is likely that a deficiency in the degradation of mitochondria contributes to the unusual phenotypes observed in mice with autophagy-deficient adipose tissue, including reduced adiposity, resistance to diet-induced obesity, and increased insulin sensitivity. What is not yet known is whether the process of mitochondria-specific autophagy, often referred to as “mitophagy,” is specifically induced during adipogenesis or if a general increase in the nonspecific autophagic degradation of mitochondria plays a role in normal adipose differentiation. Despite remaining questions, these findings not only establish the critical role of autophagy in white adipose tissue development, but also suggest that the manipulation of autophagy in adipose tissue may provide novel therapeutic opportunities for metabolic diseases. Antioxid. Redox Signal. 14, 1971–1978.
The cellular process of macromolecular degradation known as macroautophagy has long been known to play a role in the elimination of mitochondria. Over the past decade, much progress has been made in the development of systems by which the nature and mechanism of mitochondria degradation may be studied. Recent findings imply that the degradation of mitochondria via autophagy may be more specific and more tightly regulated than originally thought, and have led to designation of this specific type of autophagy as “mitophagy”. In this review we provide a brief history of the development of mitophagy models and their associated discoveries.
Mitophagy; Autophagy; Mitochondria; Adipocyte; Reticulocyte
In humans, imaging of tumors provides rapid, accurate assessment of tumor growth and location. In laboratory animals, however, the imaging of spontaneously occurring tumors continues to pose many technical and logistical problems. Recently a mouse model was generated in which a chimeric protein consisting of HIF-1α oxygen-dependent degradation domain (ODD) fused to luciferase was ubiquitously expressed in all tissues. Hypoxic stress leads to the accumulation of ODD-luciferase in the tissues of this mouse model which can be identified by non-invasive bioluminescence measurement. Since solid tumors often contain hypoxic regions, we performed proof-of-principle experiments testing whether this transgenic mouse model may be used as a universal platform for non-invasive imaging analysis of spontaneous solid tumors.
Methods and Materials
ODD-luciferase transgenic mice were bred with MMTV-neu/beclin1+/− mice. Upon injection of luciferin, bioluminescent background of normal tissues in the transgenic mice and bioluminescent signals from spontaneously mammary carcinomas were measured non-invasively with an IVIS Spectrum imaging station. Tumor volumes were measured manually and the histology of tumor tissues was analyzed.
Our results show that spontaneous mammary tumors in ODD-luciferase transgenic mice generate substantial bioluminescent signals, which are clearly discernable from background tissue luminescence. Moreover, we demonstrate a strong quantitative correlation between the bioluminescent tumor contour and the volume of palpable tumors. We further demonstrate that shrinkage of the volume of spontaneous tumors in response to chemotherapeutic treatment can be determined quantitatively using this system. Finally, we show that the growth and development of spontaneous tumors can be monitored longitudinally over several weeks. Thus, our results suggest that this model could potentially provide a practical, reliable, and cost-effective non-invasive quantitative method for imaging spontaneous solid tumors in mice.
Obesity is a direct result of the accumulation of white adipose tissue (WAT). In this study, the role of autophagy in the differentiation of white adipose tissue was studied by deleting the autophagy-related 7 (atg7) gene from adipose tissue in mice. This deletion results in a striking phenotype at the cellular, tissue and whole-organism levels. Adipose tissue deposits in the mutant mice are much smaller in mass than those observed in their wild-type counterparts, and mutant adipocytes exhibit unusual morphological characteristics including multilocular lipid droplets and greatly increased numbers of mitochondria. The knockout mice are noticeably slimmer than their wild-type littermates, despite parity in food and water consumption. The mutant mice also exhibit higher basal physical activity levels and an array of metabolic changes revealed through blood tests. Most importantly, these mice show resistance to high-fat diet-induced obesity and markedly increased sensitivity to insulin. These findings establish a new function for autophagy and provide a new model system for use in the search for treatments for obesity and type II diabetes.
atg7; adipose; knockout; obesity; diabetes
Mammalian white adipocytes have a unique structure in which nearly the entire cell volume is occupied by a single large lipid droplet, while the surrounding cytoplasm occupies minimal space. The massive cytoplasmic remodeling processes involved in the formation of this unique cellular structure are poorly defined. Autophagy is a membrane trafficking process leading to lysosomal degradation of cytoplasmic components. Here, we investigated the functional role of atg5, a gene encoding an essential protein required for autophagy, in adipocyte differentiation in a cellular model and in mice. Massive autophagy was activated when wild-type primary mouse embryonic fibroblasts (MEFs) were induced for adipocyte differentiation. Importantly, the autophagy deficient primary atg5-/- MEFs exhibited dramatically reduced efficiency in adipogenesis. Time-lapse microscopy revealed that atg5-/- MEFs initially appeared to differentiate normally; however, a majority of the differentiating atg5-/- cells ultimately failed to undergo further morphological transformation and eventually died, likely through apoptosis. Consistent with these in vitro results, histological analysis revealed that the atg5-/- late-stage embryos and neonatal pups had much less subcutaneous perilipin A-positive adipocytes. Consistently, when treated with chloroquine, a functional inhibitor of autophagy, wild-type MEFs exhibited drastically reduced efficiency of adipocyte differentiation. Taken together, these findings demonstrated that Atg5 is involved in normal adipocyte differentiation, suggesting an important role of autophagy in adipogenesis.
Atg5; autophagy; adipogenesis; WAT; adipocyte differentiation
Defective apoptosis renders immortalized epithelial cells highly tumorigenic, but how this is impacted by other common tumor mutations is not known. In apoptosis-defective cells, inhibition of autophagy by AKT activation or by allelic disruption of beclin1 confers sensitivity to metabolic stress by inhibiting an autophagy-dependent survival pathway. While autophagy acts to buffer metabolic stress, the combined impairment of apoptosis and autophagy promotes necrotic cell death in vitro and in vivo. Thus, inhibiting autophagy under conditions of nutrient limitation can restore cell death to apoptosis-refractory tumors, but this necrosis is associated with inflammation and accelerated tumor growth. Thus, autophagy may function in tumor suppression by mitigating metabolic stress and, in concert with apoptosis, by preventing death by necrosis.
During tumorigenesis, normal growth mechanisms are deregulated and safeguards that eliminate abnormal cells by apoptosis are disabled. Tumor cells must also increase nutrient uptake and angiogenesis to support the upregulation of metabolism necessary for unrestricted growth. In addition, they have to rely on inefficient energy production by glycolysis. This glycolytic state can result from mutations that promote cell proliferation, the hypoxic tumor microenvironment and perhaps mitochondrial malfunction. Moreover, the very signals that enable unrestricted cell proliferation inhibit autophagy, which normally sustains cells during nutrient limitation. In tumors, inactivation of the autophagy pathway may enhance necrosis and inflammation and promote genomic instability, which can further enhance tumor growth. Thus, tumor cells cannot adapt efficiently to metabolic stress and could be induced to die by metabolic catastrophe, in which high energy demand is contrasted by insufficient energy production. Efforts to exploit this unique metabolic state clinically previously focused mainly on detecting tissue displaying increased glycolytic metabolism. The challenge now is to induce metabolic catastrophe therapeutically as an approach to killing the unkillable cells.
Autophagy; Apoptosis; AKT; mTOR; BCL-2; Beclin1; Cancer
Autophagy plays a critical protective role maintaining energy homeostasis and protein and organelle quality control. These functions are particularly important in times of metabolic stress and in cells with high energy demand such as cancer cells. In emerging cancer cells, autophagy defect may cause failure of energy homeostasis and protein and organelle quality control, leading to the accumulation of cellular damage in metabolic stress. Some manifestations of this damage, such as activation of the DNA damage response and generation of genome instability may promote tumor initiation and drive cell-autonomous tumor progression. In addition, in solid tumors, autophagy localizes to regions that are metabolically stressed. Defects in autophagy impair the survival of tumor cells in these areas, which is associated with increased cell death and inflammation. The cytokine response from inflammation may promote tumor growth and accelerate cell non-autonomous tumor progression. The overreaching theme is that autophagy protects cells from damage accumulation under conditions of metabolic stress allowing efficient tolerance and recovery from stress, and that this is a critical and novel tumor suppression mechanism. The challenge now is to define the precise aspects of autophagy, including energy homeostasis and protein and organelle turnover, that are required for the proper management of metabolic stress that suppress tumorigenesis. Furthermore, we need to be able to identify human tumors with deficient autophagy, and to develop rational cancer therapies that take advantage of the altered metabolic state and stress responses inherent to this autophagy defect.
autophagy; beclin1; cancer
Autophagy, a eukaryotic cellular activity leading to the degradation of cellular components, serves as a defense mechanism against facultative intracellular bacteria as well as a growth niche for the obligate intracellular bacterium Coxiella burnetii. We here demonstrate that the obligate intracellular bacterial pathogen Chlamydia trachomatis lymphogranuloma venereum strongly induced autophagy in the middle of the chlamydial developmental cycle (24 h after infection), a time point with maximal level of chlamydial replication, but not during the early stages with low overall chlamydial metabolism (before 8 h). No autophagy induction was evident in cells exposed to heat- and ultraviolet-inactivated elementary bodies (EBs, the infectious form of Chlamydia) nor to inocula from which EBs had been removed prior to inoculation. Blocking chlamydial development with chloramphenicol also prevented autophagy induction in cells infected with infectious EBs. It appears that autophagy is activated primarily in response to the metabolic stress consequent to chlamydial replication. However, autophagy-defective ATG5−/− cells supported chlamydial development as efficiently as autophagy-proficient ATG5+/+ cells.
autophagy; Chlamydia trachomatis; ATG5; LC3
Human breast, ovarian, and prostate tumors display allelic loss of the essential autophagy gene beclin1 with high frequency, and an increase in the incidence of tumor formation is observed in beclin1+/− mutant mice. These findings suggest a role for beclin1 and autophagy in tumor suppression; however, the mechanism by which this occurs has been unclear. Autophagy is a bulk degradation process whereby organelles and cytoplasm are engulfed and targeted to lysosomes for proteolysis,1,2 There is evidence that autophagy sustains cell survival during nutrient deprivation through catabolism, but also that autophagy is a means of achieving cell death when executed to completion. If or how either of these diametrically opposing functions proposed for autophagy may be related to tumor suppression is unknown. We found that metabolic stress is a potent trigger of apoptotic cell death, defects in which enable long-term survival that is dependent on autophagy both in vitro and in tumors in vivo.3 These findings raise the conundrum whereby inactivation of a survival pathway (autophagy) promotes tumorigenesis. Interestingly, when cells with defects in apoptosis are denied autophagy, this creates the inability to tolerate metabolic stress, reduces cellular fitness, and activates a necrotic pathway to cell death. This necrosis in tumors is associated with inflammation and enhancement of tumor growth, due to the survival of a small population of surviving, but injured, cells in a microenvironment that favors oncogenesis. Thus, by sustaining metabolism through autophagy during periods of metabolic stress, cells can limit energy depletion, cellular damage, and cell death by necrosis, which may explain how autophagy can prevent cancer, and how loss of a survival function can be tumorigenic.
autophagy; apoptosis; necrosis; Beclin1; cancer
Recent studies have shown that the histone-modifying enzymes histone acetyltransferase (HAT) and histone deacetylase (HDAC) are involved in transcriptional activation and repression, respectively. However, little is known about the endogenous genes that are regulated by these enzymes or how specificity is achieved. In the present report, we demonstrate that HAT and HDAC activities modulate transcription of the P-glycoprotein-encoding gene, MDR1. Incubation of human colon carcinoma SW620 cells in 100-ng/ml trichostatin A (TSA), a specific HDAC inhibitor, increased the steady-state level of MDR1 mRNA 20-fold. Furthermore, TSA treatment of cells transfected with a wild-type MDR1 promoter/luciferase construct resulted in a 10- to 15-fold induction of promoter activity. Deletion and point mutation analysis determined that an inverted CCAAT box was essential for this activation. Consistent with this observation, overexpression of p300/CREB binding protein-associated factor (P/CAF), a transcriptional coactivator with intrinsic HAT activity, activated the wild-type MDR1 promoter but not a promoter containing a mutation in the CCAAT box; deletion of the P/CAF HAT domain abolished activation. Gel shift and supershift analyses identified NF-Y as the CCAAT-box binding protein in these cells, and cotransfection of a dominant negative NF-Y expression vector decreased the activation of the MDR1 promoter by TSA. Moreover, NF-YA and P/CAF were shown to interact in vitro. This is the first report of a natural promoter that is modulated by HAT and HDAC activities in which the transcription factor mediating this regulation has been identified.