Autophagy is an essential, conserved lysosomal degradation pathway that controls the quality of the cytoplasm by eliminating protein aggregates and damaged organelles. It begins when double-membraned autophagosomes engulf portions of the cytoplasm, which is followed by fusion of these vesicles with lysosomes and degradation of the autophagic contents. In addition to its vital homeostatic role, this degradation pathway is involved in various human disorders, including metabolic conditions, neurodegenerative diseases, cancers and infectious diseases. This article provides an overview of the mechanisms and regulation of autophagy, the role of this pathway in disease and strategies for therapeutic modulation.
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.
Autophagy is an essential cellular process for protein and organelle quality control. Analyses of proteins that interact with the human autophagic machinery provide an outline of the molecular organization of this pathway.
Autophagy is an evolutionarily ancient pathway for survival during different forms of cellular stress, including infection with viruses and other intracellular pathogens. Autophagy may protect against viral infection through degradation of viral components (xenophagy), by promoting the survival or death of infected cells, through delivery of Toll-like receptor (TLR) ligands to endosomes to activate innate immunity, or by feeding antigens to MHC class II compartments to activate adaptive immunity. Given this integral role of autophagy in innate and adaptive antiviral immunity, selective pressure likely promoted the emergence of escape mechanisms by pathogenic viruses. This review will briefly summarize the current understanding of autophagy as an antiviral pathway, and then discuss strategies that viruses may utilize to evade this host defense mechanism.
autophagy; virus; xenophagy; immunity; viral evasion
Aberrant signaling through the class I phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K)-Akt axis is frequent in human cancer. Here we show that Beclin 1, an essential autophagy and tumor suppressor protein, is a target of the protein kinase Akt. Expression of a Beclin 1 mutant resistant to Akt-mediated phosphorylation increased autophagy, reduced anchorage-independent growth, and inhibited Akt-driven tumorigenesis. Akt-mediated phosphorylation of Beclin 1 enhanced its interactions with 14-3-3 and vimentin intermediate filament proteins, and vimentin depletion increased autophagy and inhibited Akt-driven transformation. Thus, Akt-mediated phosphorylation of Beclin 1 functions in autophagy inhibition, oncogenesis, and the formation of an autophagy-inhibitory Beclin 1/14-3-3/vimentin intermediate filament complex. These findings have broad implications for understanding the role of Akt signaling and intermediate filament proteins in autophagy and cancer.
Ceramide is a sphingolipid bioactive molecule that induces apoptosis and other forms of cell death, and triggers macroautophagy (referred to below as autophagy). Like amino acid starvation, ceramide triggers autophagy by interfering with the mTOR-signaling pathway, and by dissociating the Beclin 1:Bcl-2 complex in a c-Jun N-terminal kinase 1 (JNK1)-mediated Bcl-2 phosphorylation-dependent manner. Dissociation of the Beclin 1:Bcl-2 complex, and the subsequent stimulation of autophagy have been observed in various contexts in which the cellular level of long-chain ceramides was increased. It is notable that the conversion of short-chain ceramides (C2-ceramide and C6-ceramide) into long-chain ceramide via the activity of ceramide synthase is required to trigger autophagy. The dissociation of the Beclin 1:Bcl-2 complex has also been observed in response to tamoxifen and PDMP (an inhibitor of the enzyme that converts ceramide to glucosylceramide), drugs that increase the intracellular level of long-chain ceramides. However, and in contrast to starvation, over-expression of Bcl-2 does not blunt ceramide-induced autophagy. Whether this autophagy that is unchecked by forced dissociation of the Beclin 1:Bcl-2 complex is related to the ability of ceramide to trigger cell death remains an open question. More generally, the question of whether ceramide-induced autophagy is a dedicated cell death mechanism deserves closer scrutiny.
macroautophagy; Bcl-2; Beclin 1; c-Jun N-terminal kinase; cell death; sphingolipids
Chikungunya virus induces autophagy by triggering ER and oxidative stress, and this autophagy restricts apoptosis and viral propagation.
Autophagy is an important survival pathway and can participate in the host response to infection. Studying Chikungunya virus (CHIKV), the causative agent of a major epidemic in India, Southeast Asia, and southern Europe, we reveal a novel mechanism by which autophagy limits cell death and mortality after infection. We use biochemical studies and single cell multispectral assays to demonstrate that direct infection triggers both apoptosis and autophagy. CHIKV-induced autophagy is mediated by the independent induction of endoplasmic reticulum and oxidative stress pathways. These cellular responses delay apoptotic cell death by inducing the IRE1α–XBP-1 pathway in conjunction with ROS-mediated mTOR inhibition. Silencing of autophagy genes resulted in enhanced intrinsic and extrinsic apoptosis, favoring viral propagation in cultured cells. Providing in vivo evidence for the relevance of our findings, Atg16LHM mice, which display reduced levels of autophagy, exhibited increased lethality and showed a higher sensitivity to CHIKV-induced apoptosis. Based on kinetic studies and the observation that features of apoptosis and autophagy were mutually exclusive, we conclude that autophagy inhibits caspase-dependent cell death but is ultimately overwhelmed by viral replication. Our study suggests that inducers of autophagy may limit the pathogenesis of acute Chikungunya disease.
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
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
Selective autophagy involves the recognition and targeting of specific cargo, such as damaged organelles, misfolded proteins, or invading pathogens for lysosomal destruction1–4. Yeast genetic screens have identified proteins required for different forms of selective autophagy, including cytoplasm-to-vacuole targeting, pexophagy, and mitophagy, and mammalian genetic screens have identified proteins required for autophagy regulation5. However, there have been no systematic approaches to identify molecular determinants of selective autophagy in mammalian cells. To identify mammalian genes required for selective autophagy, we performed a high-content, image-based, genome-wide siRNA screen to detect genes required for the colocalization of Sindbis virus capsid protein with autophagolysosomes. We identified 141 candidate genes required for viral autophagy, which were enriched for cellular pathways related to mRNA processing, interferon signaling, vesicle trafficking, cytoskeletal motor function, and metabolism. Ninety-six of these genes were also required for Parkin-mediated mitophagy, indicating that common molecular determinants may be involved in autophagic targeting of viral nucleocapsids and autophagic targeting of damaged mitochondria. Murine embryonic fibroblasts lacking one of these gene products, the C2-domain containing protein, Smurf1, are deficient in the autophagosomal targeting of Sindbis and herpes simplex viruses and in the clearance of damaged mitochondria. Moreover, Smurf1-deficient mice display an accumulation of damaged mitochondria in heart, brain, and liver. Thus, our study identifies candidate determinants of selective autophagy, and defines Smurf1 as a newly recognized mediator of both viral autophagy and mitophagy.
The study of macroautophagy in mammalian cells has described induction, vesicle nucleation, and membrane elongation complexes as key signaling intermediates driving autophagosome biogenesis. How these components are recruited to nascent autophagosomes is poorly understood, and although much is known about signaling mechanisms that restrain autophagy, the nature of positive inductive signals that can promote autophagy remain cryptic. We find that the Ras-like small G-protein, RalB, is localized to nascent autophagosomes and is activated upon nutrient deprivation. RalB and its effector Exo84 are required for nutrient starvation-induced autophagocytosis, and RalB activation is sufficient to promote autophagosome formation. Through direct binding to Exo84, RalB induces the assembly of catalytically active ULK1 and Beclin1-VPS34 complexes on the exocyst, which are required for isolation membrane formation and maturation. Thus, RalB signaling is a primary adaptive response to nutrient limitation that directly engages autophagocytosis through mobilization of the core vesicle nucleation machinery.
Autophagy is an essential, homeostatic process by which cells break down their own components. Perhaps the most primordial function of this lysosomal degradation pathway is adaptation to nutrient deprivation. However, in complex multicellular organisms, the core molecular machinery of autophagy — the ‘autophagy proteins’ — orchestrates diverse aspects of cellular and organismal responses to other dangerous stimuli such as infection. Recent developments reveal a crucial role for the autophagy pathway and proteins in immunity and inflammation. They balance the beneficial and detrimental effects of immunity and inflammation, and thereby may protect against infectious, autoimmune and inflammatory diseases.
It has been known for many decades that autophagy, a conserved lysosomal degradation pathway, is highly active during differentiation and development. However, until the discovery of the autophagy-related (ATG) genes in the 1990s, the functional significance of this activity was unknown. Initially, genetic knockout studies of ATG genes in lower eukaryotes revealed an essential role for the autophagy pathway in differentiation and development. In recent years, the analyses of systemic and tissue-specific knockout models of ATG genes in mice has led to an explosion of knowledge about the functions of autophagy in mammalian development and differentiation. Here we review the main advances in our understanding of these functions.
Autophagy is a tightly regulated pathway involving the lysosomal degradation of cytoplasmic organelles or cytosolic components. This pathway can be stimulated by multiple forms of cellular stress, including nutrient or growth factor deprivation, hypoxia, reactive oxygen species, DNA damage, protein aggregates, damaged organelles or intracellular pathogens. Both specific, stimulus-dependent and more general stimulus-independent signaling pathways are activated to coordinate different phases of autophagy. Autophagy can be integrated with other cellular stress responses through parallel stimulation of autophagy and other stress responses by specific stress stimuli, through dual regulation of autophagy and other stress responses by multi-functional stress signaling molecules, and/or through mutual control of autophagy and other stress responses. Thus, autophagy is a cell biological process that is a central component of the integrated stress response.
Autophagy is a conserved catabolic stress response pathway that is increasingly recognized as an important component of both innate and acquired immunity to pathogens. The activation of autophagy during infection not only provides cell-autonomous protection through lysosomal degradation of invading pathogens (xenophagy), but also regulates signaling by other innate immune pathways. This review will focus on recent advances in our understanding of three major areas of the interrelationship between autophagy and innate immunity, including how autophagy is triggered during infection, how invading pathogens are targeted to autophagosomes, and how the autophagy pathway participates in “tuning” the innate immune response.
In recent years, the process of selective autophagy has received much attention with respect to the clearance of protein aggregates, damaged mitochondria and bacteria. However, until recently, there have been virtually no studies on the selective autophagy of viruses, although they are perhaps one of the most ubiquitous unwanted constituents in human cells. Recently, we have shown that the ability of neuronal Atg5 to protect against lethal Sindbis virus central nervous system (CNS) infection in mice is associated with impaired viral capsid clearance, increased p62 accumulation and increased neuronal cell death. In vitro, we showed that p62 interacts with the Sindbis capsid protein and targets it for degradation in autophagosomes. Herein, we review these findings and broadly speculate about potential roles of selective viral autophagy in the regulation of host immunity and viral pathogenesis.
virus; autophagy; p62; Sindbis; capsid
Autophagy degrades pathogens in vitro. The autophagy gene Atg5 has been reported to be required for IFN-γ-dependent host protection in vivo. However, these protective effects occur independently of autophagosome formation. Thus, the in vivo role of classic autophagy in protection conferred by adaptive immunity and how adaptive immunity triggers autophagy are incompletely understood. Employing biochemical, genetic and morphological studies, we found that CD40 upregulates the autophagy molecule Beclin 1 in microglia and triggers killing of Toxoplasma gondii dependent on the autophagy machinery. Infected CD40−/− mice failed to upregulate Beclin 1 in microglia/macrophages in vivo. Autophagy-deficient Beclin 1+/− mice, mice with deficiency of the autophagy protein Atg7 targeted to microglia/macrophages as well as CD40−/− mice exhibited impaired killing of T. gondii and were susceptible to cerebral and ocular toxoplasmosis. Susceptibility to toxoplasmosis occurred despite upregulation of IFN-γ, TNF-α and NOS2, preservation of IFN-γ-induced microglia/macrophage anti-T. gondii activity and the generation of anti-T. gondii T cell immunity. CD40 upregulated Beclin 1 and triggered killing of T. gondii by decreasing protein levels of p21, a molecule that degrades Beclin 1. These studies identified CD40-p21-Beclin 1 as a pathway by which adaptive immunity stimulates autophagy. In addition, they support that autophagy is a mechanism through which CD40-dependent immunity mediates in vivo protection and that the CD40-autophagic machinery is needed for host resistance despite IFN-γ.
Cell growth is regulated by two antagonistic processes: TOR signaling and autophagy. These processes integrate signals including growth factors, amino acids, and energy status to ensure that cell growth is appropriate to environmental conditions. Autophagy responds indirectly to the cellular milieu as a downstream inhibitory target of TOR signaling and is also directly controlled by nutrient availability, cellular energy status, and cell stress. The control of cell growth by TOR signaling and autophagy are relevant to disease, as altered regulation of either pathway results in tumorigenesis. Here we give an overview of how TOR signaling and autophagy integrate nutritional status to regulate cell growth, how these pathways are coordinately regulated, and how dysfunction of this regulation might result in tumorigenesis.
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.
The autophagy pathway likely evolved not only to maintain cellular and tissue homeostasis but also to protect cells against microbial attack. This conserved mechanism by which cytoplasmic cargo is delivered to the endolysosomal system is now recognized as a central player in coordinating the host response to diverse intracellular pathogens, including viruses. As an endolysosomal delivery system, autophagy functions in the transfer of viruses from the cytoplasm to the lysosome where they are degraded, in the transfer of viral nucleic acids to endosomal sensors for the activation of innate immunity, and in the transfer of endogenous viral antigens to MHC class II compartments for the activation of adaptive immunity. Viruses have, in turn, evolved different strategies to antagonize, and potentially, to exploit the host autophagic machinery. Moreover, through mechanisms not yet well understood, autophagy may dampen host innate immune and inflammatory responses to viral infection. This review highlights the roles of autophagy in antiviral immunity, viral strategies to evade autophagy, and potential negative feedback functions of autophagy in the host antiviral response.
Autophagy; Virus; Immunity
Autophagy functions in antiviral immunity. However, it is not yet known whether endogenous autophagy genes protect against viral disease in vertebrates. Using three different approaches to inactivate the autophagy gene Atg5 in virally-infected neurons, we found that loss of Atg5 function increases mouse susceptibility to lethal Sindbis virus CNS infection. This phenotype is associated with delayed clearance of viral proteins, increased accumulation of the cellular p62 adaptor protein, and increased cell death in neurons, but not with altered levels of CNS viral replication. In vitro, p62 interacts with Sindbis virus capsid protein and genetic knockdown of p62 blocks the targeting of viral capsid to autophagosomes. Moreover, p62 or autophagy gene knockdown increases viral capsid accumulation and accelerates virus-induced cell death without affecting virus replication. These results suggest a novel function for autophagy in mammalian antiviral defense: a cell-autonomous mechanism in which p62 adaptor-mediated autophagic viral protein clearance promotes cell survival.
Autophagy has been implicated in many physiological and pathological processes. Accordingly, there is a growing scientific need to accurately identify, quantify, and manipulate the process of autophagy in cells. However, as autophagy involves dynamic and complicated processes, it is often analyzed incorrectly. In this Primer, we discuss methods to monitor autophagy and to modulate autophagic activity, with a primary focus on mammalian macroautophagy.
In its classical form, autophagy is a pathway by which cytoplasmic constituents, including intracellular pathogens, are sequestered in a double-membrane–bound autophagosome and delivered to the lysosome for degradation. This pathway has been linked to diverse aspects of innate and adaptive immunity, including pathogen resistance, production of type I interferon, antigen presentation, tolerance and lymphocyte development, as well as the negative regulation of cytokine signaling and inflammation. Most of these links have emerged from studies in which genes encoding molecules involved in autophagy are inactivated in immune effector cells. However, it is not yet known whether all of the critical functions of such genes in immunity represent ‘classical autophagy’ or possible as-yet-undefined autophagolysosome-independent functions of these genes. This review summarizes phenotypes that result from the inactivation of autophagy genes in the immune system and discusses the pleiotropic functions of autophagy genes in immunity.