Cryo-soft X-ray tomography (cryo-SXT) is a powerful imaging technique that can extract ultrastructural information from whole, unstained mammalian cells as close to the living state as possible. Subcellular organelles including the nucleus, the Golgi apparatus and mitochondria have been identified by morphology alone, due to the similarity in contrast to transmission electron micrographs. In this study, we used cryo-SXT to image endosomes and autophagosomes, organelles that are particularly susceptible to chemical fixation artefacts during sample preparation for electron microscopy. We used two approaches to identify these compartments. For early and recycling endosomes, which are accessible to externally-loaded markers, we used an anti-transferrin receptor antibody conjugated to 10 nm gold particles. For autophagosomes, which are not accessible to externally-applied markers, we developed a correlative cryo-fluorescence and cryo-SXT workflow (cryo-CLXM) to localise GFP-LC3 and RFP-Atg9. We used a stand-alone cryo-fluorescence stage in the home laboratory to localise the cloned fluorophores, followed by cryo-soft X-ray tomography at the synchrotron to analyse cellular ultrastructure. We mapped the 3D ultrastructure of the endocytic and autophagic structures, and discovered clusters of omegasomes arising from ‘hotspots’ on the ER. Thus, immunogold markers and cryo-CLXM can be used to analyse cellular processes that are inaccessible using other imaging modalities.
•We image whole, unstained mammalian cells using cryo-soft X-ray tomography.•Endosomes are identified using a gold marker for the transferrin receptor.•A new workflow for correlative cryo-fluorescence and cryo-SXT is used to locate early autophagosomes.•Interactions between endosomes, endoplasmic reticulum and forming autophagosomes are mapped in 3D.•Multiple omegasomes are shown to form at ‘hotspots’ on the endoplasmic reticulum.
Cryo-fluorescence; Cryo-soft X-ray tomography; Cryo-CLXM; Endosomes; Autophagosomes; Omegasomes; CEMOVIS, Cryo-Electron Microscopy of Vitreous Sections; CLEM, Correlative Light and Electron Microscopy; Cryo-CLXM, Cryo-Correlative Light and X-ray Microscopy; Cryo-SXT, cryo-Soft X-ray Tomography; Cryo-TEM, cryo-transmission electron microscopy; ER, endoplasmic reticulum; FIB, Focused Ion Beam; GFP, Green Fluorescent Protein; HPF, high pressure freezing; PNR, perinuclear region; RFP, Red Fluorescent Protein; TfnR, transferrin receptor; VTC, vesicular–tubular clusters
T cell senescence is thought to contribute to immune function decline, but the pathways that mediate senescence in these cells are not clear. Here, we evaluated T cell populations from healthy volunteers and determined that human CD8+ effector memory T cells that reexpress the naive T cell marker CD45RA have many characteristics of cellular senescence, including decreased proliferation, defective mitochondrial function, and elevated levels of both ROS and p38 MAPK. Despite their apparent senescent state, we determined that these cells secreted high levels of both TNF-α and IFN-γ and showed potent cytotoxic activity. We found that the senescent CD45RA-expressing population engaged anaerobic glycolysis to generate energy for effector functions. Furthermore, inhibition of p38 MAPK signaling in senescent CD8+ T cells increased their proliferation, telomerase activity, mitochondrial biogenesis, and fitness; however, the extra energy required for these processes did not arise from increased glucose uptake or oxidative phosphorylation. Instead, p38 MAPK blockade in these senescent cells induced an increase in autophagy through enhanced interactions between p38 interacting protein (p38IP) and autophagy protein 9 (ATG9) in an mTOR-independent manner. Together, our findings describe fundamental metabolic requirements of senescent primary human CD8+ T cells and demonstrate that p38 MAPK blockade reverses senescence via an mTOR-independent pathway.
Mammalian cell homeostasis during starvation depends on initiation of autophagy by endoplasmic reticulum-localized phosphatidylinositol 3-phosphate (PtdIns(3)P) synthesis. Formation of double-membrane autophagosomes that engulf cytosolic components requires the LC3-conjugating Atg12–5-16L1 complex. The molecular mechanisms of Atg12–5-16L1 recruitment and significance of PtdIns(3)P synthesis at autophagosome formation sites are unknown. By identifying interacting partners of WIPIs, WD-repeat PtdIns(3)P effector proteins, we found that Atg16L1 directly binds WIPI2b. Mutation experiments and ectopic localization of WIPI2b to plasma membrane show that WIPI2b is a PtdIns(3)P effector upstream of Atg16L1 and is required for LC3 conjugation and starvation-induced autophagy through recruitment of the Atg12–5-16L1 complex. Atg16L1 mutants, which do not bind WIPI2b but bind FIP200, cannot rescue starvation-induced autophagy in Atg16L1-deficient MEFs. WIPI2b is also required for autophagic clearance of pathogenic bacteria. WIPI2b binds the membrane surrounding Salmonella and recruits the Atg12–5-16L1 complex, initiating LC3 conjugation, autophagosomal membrane formation, and engulfment of Salmonella.
•WIPI2 binds Atg16L1 directly and recruits the Atg12–5-16L1 complex•WIPI2 binding to Atg16L1 is required for LC3 lipidation and autophagosome formation•WIPI2-Atg16L1 function requires PI3P binding by WIPI2 and is independent of FIP200•Autophagosomal engulfment of Salmonella requires the WIPI2-Atg16L1 complex
Starvation-induced autophagy requires PtdIns(3)P locally produced on ER-derived membranes. Dooley et al. demonstrate that the PtdIns(3)P effector WIPI2b binds Atg16L1 to recruit Atg12–5-16L1 to PtdIns(3)P-positive omegasomes, resulting in LC3 lipidation and starvation-induced autophagy. These findings suggest that WIPI2b senses increases in PtdIns(3)P and directs LC3 conjugation to developing autophagosomes.
Macroautophagy, commonly referred to as autophagy, is a protein degradation pathway that occurs constitutively in cells, but can also be induced by stressors such as nutrient starvation or protein aggregation. Autophagy has been implicated in multiple disease mechanisms including neurodegeneration and cancer, with both tumor suppressive and oncogenic roles. Uncoordinated 51-like kinase 1 (ULK1) is a critical autophagy protein near the apex of the hierarchal regulatory pathway that receives signals from the master nutrient sensors MTOR and AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK). In mammals, ULK1 has a close homolog, ULK2, although their functional distinctions have been unclear. Here, we show that ULK1 and ULK2 both function to support autophagy activation following nutrient starvation. Increased autophagy following amino acid or glucose starvation was disrupted only upon combined loss of ULK1 and ULK2 in mouse embryonic fibroblasts. Generation of PtdIns3P and recruitment of WIPI2 or ZFYVE1/DFCP1 to the phagophore following amino acid starvation was blocked by combined Ulk1/2 double knockout. Autophagy activation following glucose starvation did not involve recruitment of either WIPI1 or WIPI2 to forming autophagosomes. Consistent with a PtdIns3P-independent mechanism, glucose-dependent autophagy was resistant to wortmannin. Our findings support functional redundancy between ULK1 and ULK2 for nutrient-dependent activation of autophagy and furthermore highlight the differential pathways that respond to amino acid and glucose deprivation.
ULK1; ULK2; WIPI1; WIPI2; knockout; MEF; nutrient starvation
HRES-1/Rab4 is a small GTPase that regulates endocytic recycling. It has been colocalized to mitochondria and the mechanistic target of rapamycin (mTOR), a suppressor of autophagy. Since the autophagosomal membrane component microtubule-associated protein light chain 3 (LC3) is derived from mitochondria, we investigated the impact of HRES-1/Rab4 on the formation of LC3+ autophagosomes, their colocalization with HRES-1/Rab4 and mitochondria, and the retention of mitochondria during autophagy induced by starvation and rapamycin. HRES-1/Rab4 exhibited minimal baseline colocalization with LC3, which was enhanced 22-fold upon starvation or 6-fold upon rapamycin treatment. Colocalization of HRES-1/Rab4 with mitochondria was increased >2-fold by starvation or rapamycin. HRES-1/Rab4 overexpression promoted the colocalization of mitochondria with LC3 upon starvation or rapamycin treatment. A dominant-negative mutant, HRES-1/Rab4S27N had reduced colocalization with LC3 and mitochondria upon starvation but not rapamycin treatment. A constitutively active mutant, HRES-1/Rab4Q72L showed diminished colocalization with LC3 but promoted the partitioning of mitochondria with LC3 upon starvation or rapamycin treatment. Phosphorylation-resistant mutant HRES-1/Rab4S204Q showed diminished colocalization with LC3 but increased partitioning to mitochondria. A newly discovered C-terminally truncated native isoform, HRES-1/Rab41–121, showed enhanced localization to LC3 and mitochondria without starvation or rapamycin treatment. HRES-1/Rab41–121 increased the formation of LC3+ autophagosomes in resting cells, while other isoforms promoted autophagosome formation upon starvation. HRES-1/Rab4, HRES-1/Rab41–121, HRES-1/Rab4Q72L and HRES-1/Rab4S204Q promoted the accumulation of mitochondria during starvation. The specificity of HRES-1/Rab4-mediated mitochondrial accumulation is indicated by its abrogation by dominant-negative HRES-1/Rab4S27N mutation. The formation of interconnected mitochondrial tubular networks was markedly enhanced by HRES-1/Rab4Q72L upon starvation, which may contribute to the retention of mitochondria during autophagy. The present study thus indicates that HRES-1/Rab4 regulates autophagy through promoting the formation of LC3+ autophagosomes and the preservation of mitochondria.
Leucine Rich Repeat Kinase 2 (LRRK2) is one of the most important genetic contributors to Parkinson's disease. LRRK2 has been implicated in a number of cellular processes, including macroautophagy. To test whether LRRK2 has a role in regulating autophagy, a specific inhibitor of the kinase activity of LRRK2 was applied to human neuroglioma cells and downstream readouts of autophagy examined. The resulting data demonstrate that inhibition of LRRK2 kinase activity stimulates macroautophagy in the absence of any alteration in the translational targets of mTORC1, suggesting that LRRK2 regulates autophagic vesicle formation independent of canonical mTORC1 signaling. This study represents the first pharmacological dissection of the role LRRK2 plays in the autophagy/lysosomal pathway, emphasizing the importance of this pathway as a marker for LRRK2 physiological function. Moreover it highlights the need to dissect autophagy and lysosomal activities in the context of LRRK2 related pathologies with the final aim of understanding their aetiology and identifying specific targets for disease modifying therapies in patients.
•Inhibiting the kinase activity of LRRK2 induces autophagy•This induction is independent of an impact on the translational targets of mTORC1•Inhibition of LRRK2 kinase activity results in a translation dependent increase in p62 levels
LRRK2, Leucine Rich Repeat Kinase 2; mTOR, Mammalian target of rapamycin; ROC, Ras of Complex Proteins; COR, C-terminal of ROC domain; SDS, Sodium dodecyl sulphate; EDTA, Ethylene di-ammonium tetra acetic acid; DPBS, Dulbecco's phosphate buffered saline; DMSO, Dimethylsulfoxide; LRRK2; Macroautophagy; Parkinson's disease; LC3; p62; WIPI2
•Mutations in the ROC, COR and Kinase domain of LRRK2 alter the autophagic response to starvation.•LC3-I/II ratio following starvation is altered by mutations, as well as p62 and WIPI2 positive puncta.•This occurs independently of any alteration in downstream targets of mTORC1.
LRRK2 is one of the most important genetic contributors to Parkinson’s disease (PD). Point mutations in this gene cause an autosomal dominant form of PD, but to date no cellular phenotype has been consistently linked with mutations in each of the functional domains (ROC, COR and Kinase) of the protein product of this gene. In this study, primary fibroblasts from individuals carrying pathogenic mutations in the three central domains of LRRK2 were assessed for alterations in the autophagy/lysosomal pathway using a combination of biochemical and cellular approaches. Mutations in all three domains resulted in alterations in markers for autophagy/lysosomal function compared to wild type cells. These data highlight the autophagy and lysosomal pathways as read outs for pathogenic LRRK2 function and as a marker for disease, and provide insight into the mechanisms linking LRRK2 function and mutations.
LRRK2, leucine rich repeat kinase 2; ROC, ras of complex proteins; COR, C-terminal of ROC; PD, Parkinson’s disease; ICC, Immunocytochemistry; LRRK2; Parkinson’s disease; Autophagy; Lysosomes; Signaling pathways
Autophagosome formation is a complex cellular process, which requires major membrane rearrangements leading to the creation of a relatively large double-membrane vesicle that directs its contents to the lysosome for degradation. Although various membrane compartments have been identified as sources for autophagosomal membranes, the molecular mechanism underlying these membrane trafficking steps remains elusive. To address this question we performed a systematic analysis testing all known Tre-2/Bub2/Cdc16 (TBC) domain-containing proteins for their ability to inhibit autophagosome formation by disrupting a specific membrane trafficking step. TBC proteins are thought to act as inhibitors of Rab GTPases, which regulate membrane trafficking events. Up to 11 TBC proteins inhibit autophagy when overexpressed and one of these, TBC1D14, acts at an early stage during autophagosome formation and is involved in regulating recycling endosomal traffic. We found that the early acting autophagy proteins ATG9 and ULK1 localize to transferrin receptor (TFR)-positive recycling endosomes (RE), which are tubulated by excess TBC1D14 leading to an inhibition of autophagosome formation. Finally, transferrin (TF)-containing recycling endosomal membranes can be incorporated into newly forming autophagosomes, although it is likely that most of the autophagosome membrane is subsequently acquired from other sources.
ATG13; ATG9; RAB11; Rab GTPases; RabGAPs; TBC1D14; ULK1; autophagosome formation; autophagy; recycling endosomes; transferrin receptor
The lysosomal degradation pathway of autophagy has a crucial role in defence against infection, neurodegenerative disorders, cancer and ageing. Accordingly, agents that induce autophagy may have broad therapeutic applications. One approach to developing such agents is to exploit autophagy manipulation strategies used by microbial virulence factors. Here we show that a peptide, Tat–beclin 1—derived from a region of the autophagy protein, beclin 1, which binds human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-1 Nef—is a potent inducer of autophagy, and interacts with a newly identified negative regulator of autophagy, GAPR-1 (also called GLIPR2). Tat–beclin 1 decreases the accumulation of polyglutamine expansion protein aggregates and the replication of several pathogens (including HIV-1) in vitro, and reduces mortality in mice infected with chikungunya or West Nile virus. Thus, through the characterization of a domain of beclin 1 that interacts with HIV-1 Nef, we have developed an autophagy-inducing peptide that has potential efficacy in the treatment of human diseases.
Melanosomes are lysosome-related organelles that serve as specialized sites of melanin synthesis and storage in melanocytes. The progression of melanosomes through the different stages of their formation requires trafficking of specific proteins and membrane constituents in a sequential manner, which is likely to deploy ubiquitous cellular machinery along with melanocyte-specific proteins. Recent evidence revealed a connection between melanogenesis and the autophagy machinery, suggesting a novel role for members of the latter in melanocytes. Here we focused on ULK1, a key autophagy protein which is negatively regulated by mTORC1, to assess its potential role in melanogenesis in MNT-1 cells. We found that ULK1 depletion causes an increase in melanin levels, suggesting an inhibitory function for this protein in melanogenesis. Furthermore, this increase was accompanied by increased transcription of MITF (microphthalmia-associated transcription factor) and tyrosinase and by elevated protein levels of tyrosinase, the rate-limiting factor in melanin biogenesis. We also provide evidence to show that ULK1 function in this context is independent of the canonical ULK1 autophagy partners, ATG13 and FIP200. Furthermore we show that regulation of melanogenesis by ULK1 is independent of mTORC1 inhibition. Our data thus provide intriguing insights regarding the involvement of the key regulatory autophagy machinery in melanogenesis.
Autophagy is a conserved and highly regulated catabolic pathway, transferring cytoplasmic components in autophagosomes to lysosomes for degradation and providing amino acids during starvation. In multicellular organisms autophagy plays an important role for tissue homeostasis, and deregulation of autophagy has been implicated in a broad range of diseases, including cancer and neurodegenerative disorders. In mammals, many aspects of autophagy still need to be fully elucidated: what is the exact hierarchy and relationship between ATG proteins and other factors that lead to the formation and expansion of phagophores? Where does the membrane source for autophagosome formation originate? Which signaling events trigger amino acid starvation-induced autophagy? How are the activities of ULK1/2 and the class III PtdIns3K regulated and linked to each other? To develop therapeutic strategies to manipulate autophagy in human disease, a comprehensive understanding of the molecular protein machinery mediating and regulating autophagy is required.
BECN1; FEZ1; SCOC; UVRAG; Ulk1; WAC; siGenome screen
Autophagy is a rapidly expanding field in the sense that our knowledge about the molecular mechanism and its connections to a wide range of physiological processes has increased substantially in the past decade. Similarly, the vocabulary associated with autophagy has grown concomitantly. This fact makes it difficult for readers, even those who work in the field, to keep up with the ever-expanding terminology associated with the various autophagy-related processes. Accordingly, we have developed a comprehensive glossary of autophagy-related terms that is meant to provide a quick reference for researchers who need a brief reminder of the regulatory effects of transcription factors or chemical agents that induce or inhibit autophagy, the function of the autophagy-related proteins, or the role of accessory machinery or structures that are associated with autophagy.
autophagy; definitions; glossary; lexicon; terms
Neuropeptide- and hormone-containing secretory granules (SGs) are synthesized at the trans-Golgi network (TGN) as immature secretory granules (ISGs) and complete their maturation in the F-actin-rich cell cortex. This maturation process is characterized by acidification-dependent processing of cargo proteins, condensation of the SG matrix and removal of membrane and proteins not destined to mature secretory granules (MSGs). Here we addressed a potential role of Rab3 isoforms in these maturation steps by expressing their nucleotide-binding deficient mutants in PC12 cells. Our data show that the presence of Rab3D(N135I) decreases the restriction of maturing SGs to the F-actin-rich cell cortex, blocks the removal of the endoprotease furin from SGs and impedes the processing of the luminal SG protein secretogranin II. This strongly suggests that Rab3D is implicated in the subcellular localization and maturation of ISGs.
Rapid membrane expansion is the key to autophagosome formation during nutrient starvation. In this issue, Yamamoto et al. (2012. J. Cell Biol.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1083/jcb.201202061) now provide a mechanism for vesicle-mediated initiation of autophagosome biogenesis. They show that Atg9 vesicles, produced de novo during starvation, are ∼30–60 nm in size and contain ∼30 molecules of Atg9. These vesicles assemble to form an autophagosome, and subsequently, the Atg9 embedded in the outer membrane is recycled to avoid degradation.
The noncatalytic RabGAP protein TBC1D14 regulates the Rab11- and ULK1-positive recycling endosomes required for autophagosome formation upon starvation
Autophagy is a bulk degradation process characterized by the formation of double membrane vesicles called autophagosomes. The exact molecular mechanism of autophagosome formation and the origin of the autophagosomal membrane remain unclear. We screened 38 human Tre-2/Bub2/Cdc16 domain–containing Rab guanosine triphosphatase–activating proteins (GAPs) and identified 11 negative regulators of starvation-induced autophagy. One of these putative RabGAPs, TBC1D14, colocalizes and interacts with the autophagy kinase ULK1. Overexpressed TBC1D14 tubulates ULK1-positive recycling endosomes (REs), impairing their function and inhibiting autophagosome formation. TBC1D14 binds activated Rab11 but is not a GAP for Rab11, and loss of Rab11 prevents TBC1D14-induced tubulation of REs. Furthermore, Rab11 is required for autophagosome formation. ULK1 and Atg9 are found on Rab11- and transferrin (Tfn) receptor (TfnR)–positive recycling endosomes. Amino acid starvation causes TBC1D14 to relocalize from REs to the Golgi complex, whereas TfnR and Tfn localize to forming autophagosomes, which are ULK1 and LC3 positive. Thus, TBC1D14- and Rab11-dependent vesicular transport from REs contributes to and regulates starvation-induced autophagy.
Osteoclasts resorb bone via the ruffled border whose complex folds are generated by secretory lysosome fusion with bone-apposed plasma membrane. Lysosomal fusion with the plasmalemma results in acidification of the resorptive microenvironment and release of CatK to digest the organic matrix of bone. The means by which secretory lysosomes are directed to fuse with the ruffled border are enigmatic. We show that proteins essential for autophagy including Atg5, Atg7, Atg4B and LC3, are important for generating the osteoclast ruffled border, the secretory function of osteoclasts and bone resorption in vitro and in vivo. Further, Rab7 which is required for osteoclast function, localizes to the ruffled border in an Atg5-dependent manner. Thus, autophagy proteins participate in polarized secretion of lysosomal contents into the extracellular space by directing lysosomes to fuse with the plasma membrane. These findings are in keeping with a putative link between autophagy genes and human skeletal homeostasis.
The study of autophagy is rapidly expanding, and our knowledge of the molecular mechanism and its connections to a wide range of physiological processes has increased substantially in the past decade. The vocabulary associated with autophagy has grown concomitantly. In fact, it is difficult for readers—even those who work in the field—to keep up with the ever-expanding terminology associated with the various autophagy-related processes. Accordingly, we have developed a comprehensive glossary of autophagy-related terms that is meant to provide a quick reference for researchers who need a brief reminder of the regulatory effects of transcription factors and chemical agents that induce or inhibit autophagy, the function of the autophagy-related proteins, and the roles of accessory components and structures that are associated with autophagy.
autophagy; lysosome; mitophagy; pexophagy; stress; vacuole
T lymphocytes make use of their major integrin LFA-1 to migrate on surfaces that express ICAM-1 such as blood vessels and inflamed tissue sites. How the adhesions are turned over in order to supply traction for this migration has not been extensively investigated. By following the fate of biotinylated membrane LFA-1 on T lymphocytes, we show in this study that LFA-1 internalization and re-exposure on the plasma membrane are linked to migration. Previously we demonstrated the GTPase Rap2 to be a regulator of LFA-1-mediated migration. SiRNA knockdown of this GTPase inhibits both LFA-1 internalization and also its ability to be re-exposed, indicating that Rap2 participates in recycling of LFA-1 and influences its complete endocytosis–exocytosis cycle. Confocal microscopy images reveal that the intracellular distribution of Rap2 overlaps with endosomal recycling vesicles. Although the homologous GTPase Rap1 is also found on intracellular vesicles and associated with LFA-1 activation, these two homologous GTPases do not co-localize. Little is known about the conformation of the LFA-1 that is recycled. We show that the extended form of LFA-1 is internalized and in Rap2 siRNA-treated T lymphocytes the trafficking of this LFA-1 conformation is disrupted resulting in its intracellular accumulation. Thus LFA-1-mediated migration of T lymphocytes requires Rap2-expressing vesicles to recycle the extended form of LFA-1 that we have previously found to control migration at the leading edge.
Rap2; LFA-1; Integrin; Migration; Recycling
Autophagy is one of the newest and fastest emerging research areas in biomedical life sciences. Autophagosomes, large double-membrane vesicles enclosing cytoplasmic components targeted for degradation, are the hallmark of this catabolic pathway. The origin of the lipid bilayers composing these transport carriers has been the central enigma of the field since the discovery of autophagy. A series of recent studies has implicated several cellular organelles as the possible source of the autophagosomal membranes, if anything further clouding our view. In this compendium, we will discuss these apparently contradictory results and briefly emphasize the relevance of determining the lipid source used for autophagy for future translational research, for example in drug discovery programs.
Autophagy or “self-eating” is a highly conserved pathway that enables cells to degrade pieces of themselves in autolysosomes to enable their survival in times of stress, including nutrient deprivation. The formation of these degradative compartments requires cytosolic proteins, some of which are autophagy specific, as well as intracellular organelles, such as the ER and Golgi, and the endosome–lysosome system. Here we discuss the cross talk between autophagy and intracellular compartments, highlighting recent exciting data about the role and regulation of the Vps34 class III phosphatidylinositol (PI) 3-kinase in autophagy.
Autophagy, an intracellular degradative pathway, maintains cell homeostasis under normal and stress conditions. Nascent double-membrane autophagosomes sequester and enclose cytosolic components and organelles, and subsequently fuse with the endosomal pathway allowing content degradation. Autophagy requires fusion of autophagosomes with late endosomes, but it is not known if fusion with early endosomes is essential. We show that fusion of AVs with functional early endosomes is required for autophagy. Inhibition of early endosome function by loss of COPI subunits (β′, β, or α) results in accumulation of autophagosomes, but not an increased autophagic flux. COPI is required for ER-Golgi transport and early endosome maturation. Although loss of COPI results in the fragmentation of the Golgi, this does not induce the formation of autophagosomes. Loss of COPI causes defects in early endosome function, as both transferrin recycling and EGF internalization and degradation are impaired, and this loss of function causes an inhibition of autophagy, an accumulation of p62/SQSTM-1, and ubiquitinated proteins in autophagosomes.
The yeast Atg1 serine/threonine protein kinase and its mammalian homologs ULK1 and ULK2 play critical roles during the activation of autophagy. Previous studies have demonstrated that the conserved C-terminal domain (CTD) of ULK1 controls the regulatory function and localization of the protein. Here, we explored the role of kinase activity and intramolecular interactions to further understand ULK function. We demonstrate that the dominant-negative activity of kinase-dead mutants requires a 7-residue motif within the CTD. Our data lead to a model in which the functions of ULK1 and ULK2 are controlled by autophosphorylation and conformational changes involving exposure of the CTD. Additional mapping indicates that the CTD contains other distinct regions that direct membrane association and interaction with the putative human homologue of Atg13, which we have here characterized. Atg13 is required for autophagy and Atg9 trafficking during autophagy. However, Atg13 does not bind the 7-residue dominant-negative motif in the CTD of ULK proteins nor is the inhibitory activity of the CTDs rescued by Atg13 ectopic expression, suggesting that in mammalian cells, the CTD may interact with additional autophagy proteins.
Research in autophagy continues to accelerate,1 and as a result many new scientists are entering the field. Accordingly, it is important to establish a standard set of criteria for monitoring macroautophagy in different organisms. Recent reviews have described the range of assays that have been used for this purpose.2,3 There are many useful and convenient methods that can be used to monitor macroautophagy in yeast, but relatively few in other model systems, and there is much confusion regarding acceptable methods to measure macroautophagy in higher eukaryotes. A key point that needs to be emphasized is that there is a difference between measurements that monitor the numbers of autophagosomes versus those that measure flux through the autophagy pathway; thus, a block in macroautophagy that results in autophagosome accumulation needs to be differentiated from fully functional autophagy that includes delivery to, and degradation within, lysosomes (in most higher eukaryotes) or the vacuole (in plants and fungi). Here, we present a set of guidelines for the selection and interpretation of the methods that can be used by investigators who are attempting to examine macroautophagy and related processes, as well as by reviewers who need to provide realistic and reasonable critiques of papers that investigate these processes. This set of guidelines is not meant to be a formulaic set of rules, because the appropriate assays depend in part on the question being asked and the system being used. In addition, we emphasize that no individual assay is guaranteed to be the most appropriate one in every situation, and we strongly recommend the use of multiple assays to verify an autophagic response.
autolysosome; autophagosome; flux; lysosome; phagophore; stress; vacuole