The current working definition of autophagy is the following: all processes in which intracellular material is degraded within the lysosome/vacuole and where the macromolecular constituents are recycled. There are several ways to classify the different types of autophagy. For example, we can separate autophagy into two primary types, based on the initial site of cargo sequestration. In particular, during microautophagy and chaperone-mediated autophagy, uptake occurs directly at the limiting membrane of the lysosome or vacuole. In contrast, macroautophagy—whether selective or nonselective—and endosomal microautophagy involve sequestration within an autophagosome or an omegasome, or late endosomes/multivesicular bodies, respectively; the key point being that in these types of autophagy the initial sequestration event does not occur at the limiting membrane of the degradative organelle. In any case, the cargo is ultimately delivered into the lysosome or vacuole lumen for subsequent degradation. Thus, I think most autophagy researchers view the degradative organelle as the ultimate destination of the pathway. Indeed, this fits with the general concept that organelles allow reactions to be compartmentalized. With regard to the lysosome or vacuole, this also confers a level of safety by keeping the lytic contents away from the remainder of the cell. If we are willing to slightly modify our definition of autophagy, with a focus on “degradation of a cell’s own components through the lysosomal/vacuolar machinery,” we can include a newly documented process, programmed nuclear destruction (PND).
autophagy; lysosome; meiosis; spore; stress; vacuole
The vast majority of studies addressing the induction of autophagy have focused upon cytoplasmic aspects of its regulation. Recently, we have started to expand our knowledge regarding the nuclear events of autophagic induction. Many autophagy-related genes are transcriptionally upregulated upon induction of autophagy, but only in a limited number of cases do we know the pathways leading to this upregulation. Few transcription factors have been implicated in controlling autophagy genes in yeast. However, many of the ATG genes show some level of transcriptional induction upon starvation. Now, we show that transcription of ATG8 is repressed under growing conditions by the Ume6-Sin3-Rpd3 complex.
autophagosome; lysosome; phagophore; stress; vacuole
fission complex; mitophagy; scaffold; phagophore; vacuole; yeast
autophagosome; lysosome; phagophore; stress; vacuole
Due in part to the increasing number of links between autophagy malfunction and human diseases, this field has gained tremendous attention over the past decade. Our increased understanding of the molecular machinery involved in macroautophagy (hereafter autophagy) seems to indicate that the most complex step, or at least the stage of the process where the majority of the autophagy-related (Atg) proteins participate, is in the formation of the double-membrane sequestering vesicle. Thus, it is important to establish reliable approaches to monitor this specific process. One of the most commonly used methods is morphological analysis by electron microscopy of the cytosolic vesicles used in the cytoplasm-to-vacuole targeting (Cvt) pathway and autophagy, or the single-membrane intralumenal products, termed Cvt or autophagic bodies, that are formed after the fusion of these vesicles with the yeast vacuole. This method, however, can be costly and time consuming, and reliable analysis requires expert input. Furthermore, it is extremely difficult to detect an incomplete autophagosome by electron microscopy because of the difficulty of obtaining a section that randomly cuts through the open portion of the phagophore. The primary Cvt pathway cargo, precursor amminopeptidase I (prApe1), is enwrapped within either a Cvt vesicle or autophagosome depending on the nutritional conditions. The proteolytic sensitivity of the prApe1 propeptide can therefore serve as a useful tool to determine the completion status of double-membrane Cvt vesicles/autophagosomes in the presence of exogenously added proteinase. Here, we describe an assay that examines the proteinase protection of prApe1 for determining the completion of Cvt vesicles/autophagosomes.
autophagy; lysosome; stress; vacuole; yeast
Selective macroautophagy uses double-membrane vesicles, termed autophagosomes, to transport cytoplasmic pathogens, organelles and protein complexes to the vacuole for degradation. Autophagosomes are formed de novo by membrane fusion events at the phagophore assembly site (PAS). Therefore, precursor membrane material must be targeted and transported to the PAS. While some autophagy-related (Atg) proteins, such as Atg9 and Atg11, are known to be involved in this process, most of the mechanistic details are not understood. Previous work has also implicated the small Rab-family GTPase Ypt1 in the process, identifying Trs85 as a unique subunit of the TRAPPIII targeting complex and showing that it plays a macroautophagy-specific role; however, the relationship between Ypt1, Atg9 and Atg11 was not clear. Now, a recent report shows that Atg11 is a Trs85-specific effector of the Rab Ypt1, and may act as a classic coiled-coil membrane tether that targets Atg9-containing membranes to the PAS. Here, we review this finding in the context of what is known about Atg11, other Rab-dependent coiled-coil tethers, and other tethering complexes involved in autophagosome formation.
Atg9; membrane trafficking; stress; Trs85; vacuole; Ypt1
There are various definitions of community. A definition that I found in one of my dictionaries is the following: “A social, religious, occupational, or other group sharing common characteristics or interests and perceived or perceiving itself as distinct in some respect from the larger society within which it exists.” Thus, I think it is fair to say that there is a worldwide autophagy community. That is, there is a group of researchers (our occupation), whose members share an interest in autophagy (our common characteristic), and that group is distinct from the larger society (I do not want to begin describing the many ways this applies). But do we feel like a community, and do we need a community? I suggest that a community is indeed beneficial, and I propose one mechanism for enhancing the development of the autophagy community.
lysosome; methods; people; stress; vacuole
Science informs art, and art informs science. Both processes involve creativity and imagination, and collaboration between scientists and artists often leads to new insights in both fields. We took advantage of the power of artistic imagery to demonstrate a dynamic cellular process, autophagy. In particular, we depicted the cytoplasm to vacuole targeting pathway, which involves dynamic membrane rearrangements to sequester a specific cargo via an autophagy-related process. By depicting this event in the context of a crowded cellular milieu, we hoped to stimulate researchers to consider aspects of the process that might be overlooked in the overly simplistic schematic drawing that typify most scientific models.
collaboration; Cvt complex; membrane; molecular model; organelle; science
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
In autophagic processes a variety of cargos is delivered to the degradative compartment of cells. Recent progress in autophagy research has provided support for the notion that when autophagic processes are operating in selective mode, a receptor protein complex will process the cargo. Here we present a concept of receptor protein complexes as comprising a functional tetrad of components: a ligand, a receptor, a scaffold and an Atg8 family protein. Our current understanding of each of the four components and their interaction in the context of cargo selection are considered in turn.
autophagic cargo; ligand; receptor; scaffold protein; Atg8 family protein; phagophore
Degradation in the lysosome/vacuole is not the final step of autophagy. In particular, for starvation-induced autophagy it is necessary to release the breakdown products back into the cytosol. However, some researchers ignore this last step and simply refer to the endpoint of autophagy as degradation, or perhaps even cargo delivery. In many cases this is not a serious issue; however, the analysis of autophagy’s role in certain diseases makes clear that this can be a significant error.
autophagy; cholesterol; lipids; lysosome; stress
In the August 2009 issue of Autophagy, I indicated that we were launching a new category of article, Protocols. At that time, I noted that we would ultimately be placing these articles on a new site online. Well, that time has finally arrived (see www.landesbioscience.com/journals/autophagy/protocols/ for links to these papers). Therefore, it seems appropriate for me to briefly distinguish among three types of community-oriented papers, Protocol, Toolbox and Resource.
autophagy; lysosome; methods; stress; vacuole
There is little doubt that humans rely on vision as their primary sensory input. However, various studies indicate that audiovisual combinations of data presentation actually enhance the ability of the learner to comprehend the information. We present an example of a musical-biological interface that provides an audible demonstration of SNARE protein function in the process of macroautophagy.
protein targeting; SNARE protein; stress; vacuole; yeast
The biogenesis of autophagosomes, the hallmark of autophagy, depends on the function of the autophagy-related (Atg) proteins and the generation of phosphatidylinositol-3-phosphate (PtdIns3P) at the phagophore assembly site (PAS), the location where autophagosomes arise. The current model is that PtdIns3P is involved primarily in the recruitment of Atg proteins to the PAS and that once an autophagosome is complete, the Atg machinery is released from its surface back into the cytoplasm and reused for the formation of new vesicles.
We have identified a PtdIns3P phosphatase, Ymr1, that is essential for the normal progression of both bulk and selective types of autophagy. This protein is recruited to the PAS at an early stage of formation of this structure through a process that requires both its GRAM domain and its catalytic activity. In the absence of Ymr1, Atg proteins fail to dissociate from the limiting membrane of autophagosomes, and these vesicles accumulate in the cytoplasm.
Our data thus reveal a key role for PtdIns3P turnover in the regulation of the late steps of autophagosome biogenesis and indicate that the disassembly of the Atg machinery from the surface of autophagosomes is a requisite for their fusion with the vacuole.
Skeletal muscle fibers of collagen VI null (Col6a1−/−) mice show signs of degeneration due to a block in autophagy, leading to the accumulation of damaged mitochondria and excessive apoptosis. Attempts to induce autophagic flux by subjecting these mutant mice to long-term or shorter bursts of physical activity are unsuccessful (see Grumati, et al., pp. 1415–23). In normal mice, the induction of autophagy in the skeletal muscles post-exercise is able to prevent the accumulation of damaged organelles and maintain cellular homeostasis. Thus, these studies provide an important connection between autophagy and exercise physiology.
lysosome; metabolism; physiology; stress; vacuole
A central part of the core macroauto-phagy (hereafter autophagy) machinery includes the two ubiquitin-like (Ubl) conjugation systems that involve the Ubl proteins Atg8 and Atg12.1 Although the functions of these proteins have not been fully elucidated, they play critical roles in autophagosome formation. For example, Atg8 is involved in cargo recognition,2,3 and the amount of Atg8 in part determines the size of the autophagosome,4 whereas Atg12 is part of a trimer that may function as an E3 ligase to facilitate Atg8 conjugation to phosphatidylethanolamine and determine, in part, the site of the conjugation reaction.5 Thus, fully functional autophagy requires both the Atg8 and Atg12 conjugation systems. Dysfunctional autophagy is associated with various human pathophysiologies including cancer, neurodegeneration, gastrointestinal disorders and heart disease. So, if you are wondering whether autophagy is operating properly in your own body, what can you do? The problem is that there are relatively few methods for analyzing autophagy in vivo.6-11 Minimally, you might want to find out if the relevant genes are intact and have the correct sequence. Considering the rapid advances being made in DNA sequencing technology, it is likely only a matter of time before people can submit a DNA sample and obtain a rapid readout of particular genes, or their entire genome. Thus, anticipating the future, we decided to analyze a select set of autophagy-related (ATG) genes, with a focus on those encoding components of the Ubl conjugation systems, by a polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-based method that combines science with art.
autophagy; collaboration; gel electrophoresis; membrane; primer
Perhaps the most complex step of macroautophagy is the formation of the double-membrane autophagosome. The majority of the autophagy-related (Atg) proteins are thought to participate in nucleation and expansion of the phagophore, and/or the completion of this compartment. Monitoring this part of the process is difficult, and typically involves electron microscopy analysis; however, unless three-dimensional tomography is performed, even this method cannot be used to easily determine if the phagophore is completely enclosed. Accordingly, a complementary approach is to examine the accessibility of sequestered cargo to exogenously added protease. This type of protease protection analysis has been used to monitor the formation of cytoplasm-to-vacuole targeting (Cvt) vesicles and autophagosomes by examining the protease sensitivity of precursor aminopeptidase I (prApe1). For determining the status of autophagosomes formed during nonselective autophagy, however, prApe1 is not the best marker protein. Here, we describe an alternative method for examining autophagosome completion using GFP-Atg8 as a marker for protease protection.
autophagy; lysosome; stress; vacuole; yeast
The autophagy-dependent selective degradation of mitochondria (mitophagy) plays an important role in removing excessive, damaged and dysfunctional mitochondria to maintain a proper cellular homeostasis. Relative to its significance in cell physiology, very little is known about the molecular machinery and regulatory mechanism of mitophagy in mammalian cells or yeast. We found that two mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPKs), Slt2 and Hog1, are required for mitophagy in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Slt2 is involved in both mitophagy and pexophagy (the selective degradation of peroxisomes through autophagy), whereas Hog1 functions specifically in mitophagy.
autophagy; kinase; mitochondria; PAS; regulation; vacuole
Atg8; autophagosome; autophagy; lysosome; phagophore; stress; vacuole
Considerable attention has been paid to the topic of autophagy induction. In part, this is because of the potential for modulating this process for therapeutic purposes. Of course we know that induced autophagy can also be problematic—for example, when trying to eliminate an established tumor that might be relying on autophagy for its own cytoprotective uses. Accordingly, inhibitory mechanisms have been considered; however, the corresponding studies have tended to focus on the pathways that block autophagy under noninducing conditions, such as when nutrients are available. In contrast, relatively little is known about the mechanisms for inhibiting autophagy under inducing conditions. Yet, this type of regulation must be occurring on a routine basis. We know that dysregulation of autophagy, e.g., due to improper activation of Beclin 1 leading to excessive autophagy activity, can cause cell death.1 Accordingly, we assume that during starvation or other inducing conditions there must be a mechanism to modulate autophagy. That is, once you turn it on, you do not want to let it continue unchecked. But how is autophagy downregulated when the inducing conditions still exist?
Atg1; autophagosome; flux; lysosome; macroautophagy; phagophore; regulation; stress; TOR; Ulk1; vacuole
Core functions of autophagy are mediated by ubiquitin-like protein (UBL) cascades, in which a homodimeric E1 enzyme, Atg7, directs the UBLs Atg8 and Atg12 to their respective E2 enzymes, Atg3 and Atg10. Crystallographic and mutational analyses of yeast (Atg7 – Atg3)2 and (Atg7 –Atg10)2 complexes reveal noncanonical, multisite E1 –E2 recognition in autophagy. Atg7’s unique N-terminal domain recruits distinctive elements from the Atg3 and Atg10 ‘backsides’. This, along with E1 and E2 conformational variability, allows presentation of ‘frontside’ Atg3 and Atg10 active sites to the catalytic cysteine in the C-terminal domain from the opposite Atg7 protomer in the homodimer. Despite different modes of binding, the data suggest that common principles underlie conjugation in both noncanonical and canonical UBL cascades, whereby flexibly tethered E1 domains recruit E2s through surfaces remote from their active sites to juxtapose the E1 and E2 catalytic cysteines.
Autophagy is a highly conserved process of quality control occurring inside cells by which cytoplasmic material can be degraded and the products recycled for use as new building blocks or for energy production. The rapid progress and ‘explosion’ of knowledge concerning autophagic processes in mammals/humans that has occurred over the last 15 years was driven by fundamental studies in yeast, principally using Saccharomyces cerevisiae, leading to the identification and cloning of genes required for autophagy. This chapter reviews the role of yeast studies in understanding the molecular mechanisms of autophagic processes, focusing on aspects that are conserved in mammals/humans and how autophagy is increasingly implicated in the pathogenesis of disease and is required for development and differentiation.
ATG/ATG genes/proteins; Autophagy; Health and disease; Lysosome; Selective autophagy; Vacuole; Yeast; Review
Autophagy mediates the degradation of cytoplasmic contents in the lysosome and plays a significant role in innate and adaptive immune responses. Lipid second messengers are implicated in the regulation of autophagy but the nature of the lipids involved and their mechanisms of action have yet to be characterized. Here we demonstrate a novel signaling role for diacylglycerol (DAG) in antibacterial autophagy. DAG production was necessary for efficient autophagy of Salmonella and its localization to bacteria-containing phagosomes preceded autophagy. Previous studies have revealed a role for the ubiquitin binding adaptor molecules p62 and NDP52 in autophagy of S. Typhimurium. We observed bacteria-containing autophagosomes colocalizing individually with either DAG or ubiquitinated proteins, indicating that both signals can act independently to promote anti-bacterial autophagy. We determined that the actions of phospholipase D (PLD) and phosphatidic acid phosphatase (PAP) were required for DAG generation and autophagy. The DAG-responsive δ isoform of protein kinase C was required for anti-bacterial autophagy, as were its downstream targets JNK and NADPH oxidase. Pkc1, the single PKC isoform in yeast, was essential for starvation-induced autophagy in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. These findings reveal an important role for DAG-mediated PKC function in mammalian anti-bacterial autophagy, and suggest a conserved role for PKC in autophagy regulation in eukaryotes.