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
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
Autophagy is generally considered to be a cytoprotective response to stress, whether in the form of nutrient deprivation or the presence of dysfunctional organelles. He et al. now show in Nature that exercise-induced autophagy is needed for some of the beneficial effects of exercise on metabolism (He et al., 2012).
We recently showed that phagophore biogenesis requires SNAREs. Our data indicate that the exocytic Q/t-SNAREs Sso1/2 and Sec9 are required for one of the earliest steps in autophagosome biogenesis, the homotypic fusion of Atg9-containing vesicles. We propose that this step precedes the formation of Atg9-containing tubulovesicular clusters (TVCs) that is a key step in perivacuolar, phagophore assembly. We also found that the endosomal Q/t-SNARE Tlg2 and the R/v-SNAREs Sec22 and Ykt6 interact with Sso1-Sec9, and are required for normal Atg9 trafficking. Thus, autophagosome biogenesis appears to involve multiple SNARE-mediated fusion events. These findings provide novel insights into the mechanism of autophagosome construction.
Atg9; autophagy; lysosome; phagophore assembly site; SNARE; tubulovesicular clusters; vacuole
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
Mitochondrial dysfunction has severe cellular consequences and is linked with neurodegenerative diseases and aging. Maintaining a healthy population of mitochondria is thus essential for proper cellular homeostasis. Several strategies have evolved to prevent and limit mitochondria damage, and macroautophagy plays a role in degrading superfluous or severely damaged mitochondria. Selective removal of mitochondria by autophagy (termed mitophagy) has been extensively studied recently in both yeast and mammalian cells. In this review, we summarize our current knowledge of mitophagy. We also compare the molecular process of mitophagy with other types of specific autophagic pathways and discuss its biological importance.
lysosome; mitophagy; protein targeting; stress; vacuole; yeast
From today's perspective, it is obvious that macroautophagy (hereafter autophagy) is an important pathway that is connected to a range of developmental and physiological processes. This viewpoint, however, is relatively recent, coinciding with the molecular identification of autophagy-related (Atg) components that function as the protein machinery that drives the dynamic membrane events of autophagy. It may be difficult, especially for scientists new to this area of research, to appreciate that the field of autophagy long existed as a “backwater” topic that attracted little interest or attention. Paralleling the development of the autophagy field was the identification and analysis of the cytoplasm-to-vacuole targeting (Cvt) pathway, the only characterized biosynthetic route that utilizes the Atg proteins. Here, we relate some of the initial history, including some never-before-revealed facts, of the analysis of the Cvt pathway and the convergence of those studies with autophagy.
AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) is a highly conserved cellular energy sensor that plays a central role in metabolic homeostasis. A recent study in Science (Egan et al., 2011) identifies ULK1 as a substrate for AMPK phosphorylation, a modification required for selective autophagy of mitochondria and cell survival during starvation.
lysosome; membrane biogenesis; mitophagy; stress; vacuole
The MAP kinase Slt2 is required for both mitophagy and pexophagy, whereas the MAP kinase Hog1 acts specifically in mitophagy.
Macroautophagy (hereafter referred to simply as autophagy) is a catabolic pathway that mediates the degradation of long-lived proteins and organelles in eukaryotic cells. The regulation of mitochondrial degradation through autophagy plays an essential role in the maintenance and quality control of this organelle. Compared with our understanding of the essential function of mitochondria in many aspects of cellular metabolism such as energy production and of the role of dysfunctional mitochondria in cell death, little is known regarding their degradation and especially how upstream signaling pathways control this process. Here, we report that two mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPKs), Slt2 and Hog1, are required for mitophagy in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Slt2 is required for the degradation of both mitochondria and peroxisomes (via pexophagy), whereas Hog1 functions specifically in mitophagy. Slt2 also affects the recruitment of mitochondria to the phagophore assembly site (PAS), a critical step in the packaging of cargo for selective degradation.
In macroautophagy (hereafter autophagy), a morphological hallmark is the formation of double-membrane vesicles called autophagosomes that sequester and deliver cytoplasmic components to the lysosome/vacuole for degradation. This process begins with an initial sequestering compartment, the phagophore, which expands into the mature autophagosome. A tremendous amount of work has been carried out to elucidate the mechanism of how the autophagosome is formed. However, an important missing piece in this puzzle is where the membrane comes from. Independent lines of evidence have shown that preexisting organelles may continuously supply lipids to support autophagosome formation. In our analysis, we identified several components of the late stage secretory pathway that may redirect Golgi-derived membrane to autophagosome formation in response to starvation conditions.
lysosome; membrane biogenesis; protein targeting; secretory pathway; stress; vacuole; yeast
Macroautophagy mediates the degradation of long-lived proteins and organelles via the de novo formation of double-membrane autophagosomes that sequester cytoplasm and deliver it to the vacuole/lysosome; however, relatively little is known about autophagosome biogenesis. Atg8, a phosphatidylethanolamine-conjugated protein, was previously proposed to function in autophagosome membrane expansion, based on the observation that it mediates liposome tethering and hemifusion in vitro. We show here that with physiological concentrations of phosphatidylethanolamine, Atg8 does not act as a fusogen. Rather, we provide evidence for the involvement of exocytic Q/t-SNAREs in autophagosome formation, acting in the recruitment of key autophagy components to the site of autophagosome formation, and in regulating the organization of Atg9 into tubulovesicular clusters. Additionally, we found that the endosomal Q/t-SNARE Tlg2 and the R/v-SNAREs Sec22 and Ykt6 interact with Sso1-Sec9, and are required for normal Atg9 transport. Thus, multiple SNARE-mediated fusion events are likely to be involved in autophagosome biogenesis.
Atg9; fusion; lysosome; membrane biogenesis; protein targeting; secretory pathway; stress; tubulovesicular clusters; vacuole; yeast
For a process intimately connected to an immense range of physiological processes, the molecular understanding of macroautophagy remains far from complete. Recent large-scale studies, including that of Behrends et al. in Nature and Lipinski et al. in Developmental Cell, are now providing new insight into the machinery of autophagy regulation.
As a major intracellular degradation pathway, autophagy is tightly regulated to prevent cellular dysfunction in all eukaryotic cells. The rapamycin-sensitive Tor kinase complex 1 is a major regulator of autophagy. Several other nutrient-sensory kinases also play critical roles to precisely modulate autophagy; however, the network of regulatory mechanisms remains largely elusive. We used genetic analyses to elucidate the mechanism by which the stress-responsive, cyclin-dependent kinase, Pho85 and its corresponding cyclin complexes antagonistically modulate autophagy in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. When complexed with cyclins Pho80 and Pcl5, Pho85 negatively regulates autophagy through downregulating the protein kinase Rim15, and the transcription factors Pho4 and Gcn4. The cyclins Clg1, Pcl1 and Pho80, in concert with Pho85, positively regulate autophagy through promoting the degradation of Sic1, a negative regulator of autophagy that targets Rim15. Our results suggest a model in which Pho85 and its cyclin complexes have opposing roles in autophagy regulation.
autophagy; Pho85; Sic1; Rim15; TORC1; yeast
Autophagy is a highly conserved, ubiquitous process that is responsible for the degradation of cytosolic components in response to starvation. Autophagy is generally considered to be nonselective; however, there are selective types of autophagy that use receptor and adaptor proteins to specifically isolate a cargo. One type of selective autophagy in yeast is the cytoplasm to vacuole targeting (Cvt) pathway. The Cvt pathway is responsible for the delivery of the hydrolase aminopeptidase I to the vacuole; as such, it is the only known biosynthetic pathway that utilizes the core machinery of autophagy. Nonetheless, it serves as a model for the study of selective autophagy in other organisms.
aminopeptidase I; cytoplasm to vacuole targeting; selective autophagy
Autophagy down-regulates the Wnt signal transduction pathway via targeted degradation of a key signaling protein. This may provide an explanation for autophagy's role in tumor suppression.
Modification of target molecules by ubiquitin or ubiquitin-like (Ubl) proteins is generally reversible. Little is known, however, about the physiological function of the reverse reaction, deconjugation. Atg8 is a unique Ubl protein whose conjugation target is the lipid phosphatidylethanolamine (PE). Atg8 functions in the formation of double-membrane autophagosomes, a central step in the well-conserved intracellular degradation pathway of macroautophagy (hereafter autophagy). Here we show that the deconjugation of Atg8−PE by the cysteine protease Atg4 plays dual roles in the formation of autophagosomes. During the early stage of autophagosome formation, deconjugation releases Atg8 from non-autophagosomal membranes to maintain a proper supply of Atg8. At a later stage, the release of Atg8 from intermediate autophagosomal membranes facilitates the maturation of these structures into fusion-capable autophagosomes. These results provide new insights into the functions of Atg8−PE and its deconjugation.
autophagy; ubiquitin-like proteins; deconjugation; Atg4; Atg8
The mitochondrion is an organelle that carries out a number of important metabolic processes such as fatty acid oxidation, the citric acid cycle, and oxidative phosphorylation. However, this multitasking organelle also generates reactive oxygen species (ROS), which can cause oxidative stress resulting in self-damage. This type of mitochondrial damage can lead to the further production of ROS and a resulting downward spiral with regard to mitochondrial capability. This is extremely problematic because the accumulation of dysfunctional mitochondria is related to aging, cancer, and neurodegenerative diseases. Accordingly, appropriate quality control of this organelle is important to maintain proper cellular homeostasis. It has been thought that selective mitochondria autophagy (mitophagy) contributes to the maintenance of mitochondrial quality by eliminating damaged or excess mitochondria, although little is known about the mechanism. Recent studies in yeast identified several mitophagy-related proteins, which have been characterized with regard to their function and regulation. In this article, we review recent advances in the physiology and molecular mechanism of mitophagy and discuss the similarities and differences of this degradation process between yeast and mammalian cells. Antioxid. Redox Signal. 14, 1989–2001.
In eukaryotic cells, autophagy is a lysosomal/vacuolar degradative pathway necessary for the turnover of different macromolecules. Autophagy is under precise regulation, not only qualitatively but also quantitatively, and excess or reduced levels of autophagy may lead to various human diseases. In yeast, genetic screens led to the identification of more than 30 autophagy-related (ATG) genes, and most of the gene products reside at the phagophore assembly site (PAS). However, our attempt to understand the quantitative properties of autophagy is usually hampered, because traditional methods of analysis cannot provide stoichiometric information. We have recently used a fluorescence microscopy-based method to study the stoichiometry of Atg proteins at the PAS, trying to explain the mechanism of how the vesicle formation process is precisely regulated. This article describes a practical guide on this method. Its application and further analysis will improve our understanding of the quantitative properties of autophagy.
fluorescence microscopy; lysosome; stoichiometry; vacuole; yeast
Great progress has been made toward understanding the pathogenesis of Parkinson’s disease (PD) during the past two decades, mainly as a consequence of the discovery of specific gene mutations contributing to the onset of PD. Recently, dysregulation of the autophagy pathway has been observed in the brains of PD patients and in animal models of PD, indicating the emerging role of autophagy in this disease. Indeed, autophagy is increasingly implicated in a number of pathophysiologies, including various neurodegenerative diseases. This article will lead you through the connection between autophagy and PD by introducing the concept and physiological function of autophagy, and the proteins related to autosomal dominant and autosomal recessive PD, particularly α-synuclein and PINK1-PARKIN, as they pertain to autophagy.
Proteins associated with inherited forms of Parkinson’s disease (PD) (e.g., α-synuclein) are involved in autophagy. Basal, constitutive autophagy may be essential for neuronal survival; its dysregulation may lead to neurodegeneration.
Atg8 is a ubiquitin-like protein that controls the expansion of the phagophore during autophagosome formation. It is recruited to the phagophore during the expansion stage and released upon the completion of the autophagosome. One possible model explaining the function of Atg8 is that it acts as an adaptor of a coat complex. Here, we tested the coat-adaptor model by estimating the area density of Atg8 molecules on the phagophore. We developed a computational process to simulate the random sectioning of vesicles heterogeneous in size. This method can be applied to estimate the original sizes of intracellular vesicles from sizes of their random sections obtained through transmission electron microscopy. Using this method, we found that the estimated area density of Atg8 is comparable with that of proteins that form the COPII coat.
Autophagy; lysosome; stress; vacuole; yeast
Macroautophagy is linked to various diseases in humans, including cancer and neurodegeneration. The morphological hallmark is the formation of the double-membrane autophagosome, which is the most complex aspect of macroautophagy. We demonstrate a role for post-Golgi Sec proteins, Sec2 and Sec4, in autophagosome formation.
In eukaryotic cells, autophagy mediates the degradation of cytosolic contents in response to environmental change. Genetic analyses in fungi have identified over 30 autophagy-related (ATG) genes and provide substantial insight into the molecular mechanism of this process. However, one essential issue that has not been resolved is the origin of the lipids that form the autophagosome, the sequestering vesicle that is critical for autophagy. Here, we report that two post-Golgi proteins, Sec2 and Sec4, are required for autophagy. Sec4 is a Rab family GTPase, and Sec2 is its guanine nucleotide exchange factor. In sec2 and sec4 conditional mutant yeast, the anterograde movement of Atg9, a proposed membrane carrier, is impaired during starvation conditions. Similarly, in the sec2 mutant, Atg8 is inefficiently recruited to the phagophore assembly site, which is involved in autophagosome biogenesis, resulting in the generation of fewer autophagosomes. We propose that following autophagy induction the function of Sec2 and Sec4 are diverted to direct membrane flow to autophagosome formation.