We have recently shown the roles of an autophagy gene in the regulation of metabolism and metabolic diseases. We identified Becn2/Beclin 2, a novel mammalian specific homolog of Becn1/Beclin 1, characterized the functions of the gene product in autophagy and agonist-induced lysosome-mediated downregulation of a subset of G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs), and proposed a model of dual functions of BECN2 in these 2 lysosomal degradation pathways. Further analyses revealed that knockout of Becn2 dramatically decreases embryonic survival in homozygotes, and leads to metabolic dysregulation in heterozygotes, which is likely caused by disruption of GPCR signaling. This finding suggests that besides autophagy, BECN/Beclin family members may play a role in the regulation of a broader spectrum of intracellular signaling pathways.
BECN2/Beclin 2; autophagy; GPCR; lysosome; metabolism
Halovirus is a major force that affects the evolution of extreme halophiles and the biogeochemistry of hypersaline environments. However, until now, the systematic studies on the halovirus ecology and the effects of salt concentration on virus-host systems are lacking. To provide more valuable information for understanding ecological strategies of a virus-host system in the hypersaline ecosystem, we studied the interaction between halovirus SNJ1 and its host Natrinema sp.J7-2 under various NaCl concentrations. We found that the adsorption rate and lytic rate increased with salt concentration, demonstrating that a higher salt concentration promoted viral adsorption and proliferation. Contrary to the lytic rate, the lysogenic rate decreased as the salt concentration increased. Our results also demonstrated that cells incubated at a high salt concentration prior to infection increased the ability of the virus to adsorb and lyse its host cells; therefore, the physiological status of host cells also affected the virus-host interaction. In conclusion, SNJ1 acted as a predator, lysing host cells and releasing progeny viruses in hypersaline environments; in low salt environments, viruses lysogenized host cells to escape the damage from low salinity.
The molecular mechanism of autophagy and its relationship to other lysosomal degradation pathways remain incompletely understood. Here, we identified a previously uncharacterized mammalian-specific protein, Beclin 2, which like Beclin 1, functions in autophagy and interacts with class III PI3K complex components and Bcl-2. However, Beclin 2, but not Beclin 1, functions in an additional lysosomal degradation pathway. Beclin 2 is required for ligand-induced endolysosomal degradation of several G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) through its interaction with GASP1. Beclin 2 homozygous knockout mice have decreased embryonic viability, and heterozygous knockout mice have defective autophagy, increased levels of brain cannabinoid 1 receptor, elevated food intake, and obesity and insulin resistance. Our findings identify Beclin 2 as a novel converging regulator of autophagy and GPCR turnover, and highlight the functional and mechanistic diversity of Beclin family members in autophagy, endolysosomal trafficking and metabolism.
The transparency, external development and simple drug administration of zebrafish embryos makes them a useful model for studying autophagy during embryonic development in vivo. Cloning of zebrafish lc3 and generation of a transgenic GFP-Lc3 fish line provide excellent tools to monitor autophagy in this organism.1 This protocol discusses several convenient autophagy assays in zebrafish, including immunoblotting of Lc3 lipidation, microscopy imaging of GFP-Lc3 and lysosomal staining.
lysosome; protein degradation; protein targeting; stress; vacuole
Exercise has beneficial effects on human health, including protection against metabolic disorders such as diabetes1. However, the cellular mechanisms underlying these effects are incompletely understood. The lysosomal degradation pathway, autophagy, is an intracellular recycling system that functions during basal conditions in organelle and protein quality control2. During stress, increased levels of autophagy permit cells to adapt to changing nutritional and energy demands through protein catabolism3. Moreover, in animal models, autophagy protects against diseases such as cancer, neuro-degenerative disorders, infections, inflammatory diseases, ageing and insulin resistance4-6. Here we show that acute exercise induces autophagy in skeletal and cardiac muscle of fed mice. To investigate the role of exercise-mediated autophagy in vivo, we generated mutant mice that show normal levels of basal autophagy but are deficient in stimulus (exercise- or starvation)-induced autophagy. These mice (termed BCL2 AAA mice) contain knock-in mutations in BCL2 phosphorylation sites (Thr69Ala, Ser70Ala and Ser84Ala) that prevent stimulus-induced disruption of the BCL2-beclin-1 complex and autophagy activation. BCL2 AAA mice show decreased endurance and altered glucose metabolism during acute exercise, as well as impaired chronic exercise-mediated protection against high-fat-diet-induced glucose intolerance. Thus, exercise induces autophagy, BCL2 is a crucial regulator of exercise- (and starvation)- induced autophagy in vivo, and autophagy induction may contribute to the beneficial metabolic effects of exercise.
We recently identified physical exercise as a newly defined inducer of autophagy in vivo. Exercise induced autophagy in multiple organs involved in metabolic regulation, such as muscle, liver, pancreas and adipose tissue. To study the physiological role of exercise-induced autophagy, we generated mice with a knock-in nonphosphorylatable mutation in BCL2 (Thr69Ala, Ser70Ala and Ser84Ala) (BCL2 AAA) that are defective in exercise- and starvation-induced autophagy but not in basal autophagy. We found that BCL2 AAA mice could not run on a treadmill as long as wild-type mice, and did not undergo exercise-mediated increases in skeletal glucose muscle uptake. Unlike wild-type mice, the BCL2 AAA mice failed to reverse high-fat diet-induced glucose intolerance after 8 weeks of exercise training, possibly due to defects in signaling pathways that regulate muscle glucose uptake and metabolism during exercise. Together, these findings suggested a hitherto unknown important role of autophagy in mediating exercise-induced metabolic benefits. In the present addendum, we show that treadmill exercise also induces autophagy in the cerebral cortex of adult mice. This observation raises the intriguing question of whether autophagy may in part mediate the beneficial effects of exercise in neurodegeneration, adult neurogenesis and improved cognitive function.
autophagy; exercise; brain; BCL2; metabolism
The mammalian ortholog of yeast Atg6/Vps30, Beclin 1, is an essential autophagy protein that has been linked to diverse biological processes, including immunity, development, tumor suppression, lifespan extension, and protection against certain cardiac and neurodegenerative diseases. In recent years, major advances have been made in identifying components of functionally distinct Beclin 1/class III phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase complexes, in characterizing the molecular regulation of interactions between Beclin 1 and the autophagy inhibitors, Bcl-2/BcL-XL, and in uncovering a role for viral antagonists of Beclin 1 in viral pathogenesis. The rapidly growing list of components of the ‘Beclin 1 interactome’ supports a model in which autophagy, and potentially other membrane trafficking functions of Beclin 1, are governed by differential interactions with different binding partners in different physiological or pathophysiological contexts.
Autophagy is a highly conserved degradative process in eukaryotic cells. This process plays an integral role in cellular physiology, and the levels of autophagy must be precisely controlled to prevent cellular dysfunction. The rapamycin-sensitive Tor kinase complex 1 (TORC1) has a major role in regulating the induction of autophagy; however, the regulatory mechanisms are not fully understood. Here, we find that Tap42 and protein phosphatase type 2A (PP2A) are involved in the regulation of autophagy in yeast. Temperature-sensitive mutant alleles of TAP42 revealed that autophagy was induced without inactivation of TORC1. Absence of the Tap42-interacting protein Tip41 abolished autophagy induction in the tap42 mutants, whereas overexpression of Tip41 activated autophagy. Furthermore, inactivation of PP2A stimulated autophagy and overexpression of a catalytic subunit of PP2A blocked rapamycin-induced autophagy. Our data support a model in which autophagy is negatively regulated by the Tap42-PP2A pathway.
autophagy; lysosome; stress; vacuole; yeast
Autophagy mediates the bulk turnover of cytoplasmic constituents in lysosomes. During embryonic development in animals, a dramatic degradation of yolk proteins and synthesis of zygotic proteins takes place, leading to intracellular remodeling and cellular differentiation. Zebrafish represents a unique system to study autophagy due in part to its rapid embryonic development relative to other vertebrates. The technical advantages of this organism make it uniquely suited to various studies including high-throughput drug screens. To study autophagy in zebrafish, we identified two zebrafish Atg8 homologs, lc3 and gabarap, and generated two transgenic zebrafish lines expressing GFP-tagged versions of the corresponding proteins. Similar to yeast Atg8 and mammalian LC3, zebrafish Lc3 undergoes post-translational modification starting at the pharyngula stage during embryonic development. We observed a high level of autophagy activity in zebrafish embryos, which can be further upregulated by the TOR inhibitor rapamycin or the calpain inhibitor calpeptin. In addition, zebrafish Gabarap accumulates within lysosomes upon autophagy induction. Thus, we established a convenient zebrafish tool to assay autophagic activity during embryogenesis in vivo.
embryogenesis; lysosome; LysoTracker; protein targeting; stress
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
Autophagy is a process of self-degradation of cellular components in which double-membrane autophagosomes sequester organelles or portions of cytosol and fuse with lysosomes or vacuoles for breakdown by resident hydrolases. Autophagy is upregulated in response to extra- or intracellular stress and signals such as starvation, growth factor deprivation, ER stress, and pathogen infection. Defective autophagy plays a significant role in human pathologies, including cancer, neurodegeneration, and infectious diseases. We present our current knowledge on the key genes composing the autophagy machinery in eukaryotes from yeast to mammalian cells and the signaling pathways that sense the status of different types of stress and induce autophagy for cell survival and homeostasis. We also review the recent advances on the molecular mechanisms that regulate the autophagy machinery at various levels, from transcriptional activation to post-translational protein modification.
lysosome; Atg proteins; target of rapamycin; stress; pathogen; transcription
Autophagy is the degradation of a cell's own components within lysosomes (or the analogous yeast vacuole), and its malfunction contributes to a variety of human diseases. Atg9 is the sole integral membrane protein required in formation of the initial sequestering compartment, the phagophore, and is proposed to play a key role in membrane transport; the phagophore presumably expands by vesicular addition to form a complete autophagosome. It is not clear through what mechanism Atg9 functions at the phagophore assembly site (PAS). Here we report that Atg9 molecules self-associate independently of other known autophagy proteins in both nutrient-rich and starvation conditions. Mutational analyses reveal that self-interaction is critical for anterograde transport of Atg9 to the PAS. The ability of Atg9 to self-interact is required for both selective and nonselective autophagy at the step of phagophore expansion at the PAS. Our results support a model in which Atg9 multimerization facilitates membrane flow to the PAS for phagophore formation.
Macroautophagy involves lysosomal/vacuolar elimination of long-lived proteins and entire organelles from the cytosol. The process begins with formation of a double-membrane vesicle that sequesters bulk cytoplasm, or a specific cargo destined for lysosomal/vacuolar delivery. The completed vesicle fuses with the lysosome/vacuole limiting membrane, releasing its content into the organelle lumen for subsequent degradation and recycling of the resulting macromolecules. A majority of the autophagy-related (Atg) proteins are required at the step of vesicle formation. The integral membrane protein Atg9 cycles between certain intracellular compartments and the vesicle nucleation site, presumably to supply membranes necessary for macroautophagic vesicle formation. In this study we have tracked the movement of Atg9 over time in living cells by using real-time fluorescence microscopy. Our results reveal that an actin-related protein, Arp2, briefly colocalizes with Atg9 and directly regulates the dynamics of Atg9 movement. We propose that proteins of the Arp2/3 complex regulate Atg9 transport for specific types of autophagy.
Autophagy is a conserved degradative pathway that is induced in response to various stress and developmental conditions in eukaryotic cells. It allows the elimination of cytosolic proteins and organelles in the lysosome/vacuole. In the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, the integral membrane protein Atg9 (autophagy-related protein 9) cycles between mitochondria and the preautophagosomal structure (PAS), the nucleating site for formation of the sequestering vesicle, suggesting a role in supplying membrane for vesicle formation and/or expansion during autophagy. To better understand the mechanisms involved in Atg9 cycling, we performed a yeast two-hybrid–based screen and identified a peripheral membrane protein, Atg11, that interacts with Atg9. We show that Atg11 governs Atg9 cycling through the PAS during specific autophagy. We also demonstrate that the integrity of the actin cytoskeleton is essential for correct targeting of Atg11 to the PAS. We propose that a pool of Atg11 mediates the anterograde transport of Atg9 to the PAS that is dependent on the actin cytoskeleton during yeast vegetative growth.