The regulation of protein degradation is essential for maintaining the appropriate environment to coordinate complex cell signaling events and to promote cellular remodeling. The Autophagy linked FYVE protein (Alfy), previously identified as a molecular scaffold between the ubiquitinated cargo and the autophagic machinery, is highly expressed in the developing central nervous system, indicating that this pathway may have yet unexplored roles in neurodevelopment. To examine this possibility, we used mouse genetics to eliminate Alfy expression. We report that this evolutionarily conserved protein is required for the formation of axonal tracts throughout the brain and spinal cord, including the formation of the major forebrain commissures. Consistent with a phenotype reflecting a failure in axon guidance, the loss of Alfy in mice disrupts localization of glial guidepost cells, and attenuates axon outgrowth in response to Netrin-1. These findings further support the growing indication that macroautophagy plays a key role in the developing CNS.
Unlike many other cells in the body, neurons typically survive throughout the life of a mammal. This long life suggests that they may be more vulnerable to damage from cellular debris. Previous research has found that a protein called Alfy, which is abundant in the brain, is involved in cleaning up debris, such as those involved in neurodegenerative diseases, by a pathway known as autophagy. Alfy guides the formation of spherical compartments called autophagosomes, which deliver the debris to another compartment known as the lysosome to permit degradation.
In developing embryos, neurons need to migrate to the right location within the central nervous system and extend projections called axons to communicate with other cells. However, it was not clear whether this process requires cell materials to be selectively sent to lysosomes, and whether this involves the Alfy protein.
Dragich et al. addressed this question by studying mouse embryos that lack Alfy. The brains of these mice developed abnormally and were missing the corpus callosum (the dense band of fibers that normally connects the two halves of the brain). Without Alfy, the growing axons could not navigate their way to the right places to connect with other neurons. Furthermore, some neurons migrated to the wrong places in the developing brain, which resulted in the abnormal formation of cell-clusters.
The findings of Dragich et al. suggest that autophagy also plays an important role in normal brain development. Future studies are now needed to work out exactly how Alfy controls neuron migration and the growth of axons. The human gene WDFY3 is nearly identical to the gene that encodes the Alfy protein, and has been implicated in neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism and microencephaly. Studying Alfy therefore may help us to understand human conditions that affect the developing or aging brain.
Autophagy; Alfy; axon guidance; corpus callosum; neurodevelopment; Wdfy3; Mouse
RAB24 belongs to a family of small GTPases and has been implicated to function in autophagy. Here we confirm the intracellular localization of RAB24 to autophagic vacuoles with immuno electron microscopy and cell fractionation, and show that prenylation and guanine nucleotide binding are necessary for the targeting of RAB24 to autophagic compartments. Further, we show that RAB24 plays a role in the maturation and/or clearance of autophagic compartments under nutrient-rich conditions, but not during short amino acid starvation. Quantitative electron microscopy shows an increase in the numbers of late autophagic compartments in cells silenced for RAB24, and mRFP-GFP-LC3 probe and autophagy flux experiments indicate that this is due to a hindrance in their clearance. Formation of autophagosomes is shown to be unaffected by RAB24-silencing with siRNA. A defect in aggregate clearance in the absence of RAB24 is also shown in cells forming polyglutamine aggregates. This study places RAB24 function in the termination of the autophagic process under nutrient-rich conditions.
aggregate; autophagosome; autophagy; basal; membrane; RAB24; starvation
Autophagy describes an intracellular process responsible for the lysosome-dependent degradation of cytosolic components. The ULK1/2 complex comprising the kinase ULK1/2 and the accessory proteins ATG13, RB1CC1, and ATG101 has been identified as a central player in the autophagy network, and it represents the main entry point for autophagy-regulating kinases such as MTOR and AMPK. It is generally accepted that the ULK1 complex is constitutively assembled independent of nutrient supply. Here we report the characterization of the ATG13 region required for the binding of ULK1/2. This binding site is established by an extremely short peptide motif at the C terminus of ATG13. This motif is mandatory for the recruitment of ULK1 into the autophagy-initiating high-molecular mass complex. Expression of a ULK1/2 binding-deficient ATG13 variant in ATG13-deficient cells resulted in diminished but not completely abolished autophagic activity. Collectively, we propose that autophagy can be executed by mechanisms that are dependent or independent of the ULK1/2-ATG13 interaction.
ATG13; ATG101; autophagy; RB1CC1; ULK1
Autophagy represents an intracellular degradation process which is involved in both regular cell homeostasis and disease settings. In recent years, the molecular machinery governing this process has been elucidated. The ULK1 kinase complex consisting of the serine/threonine protein kinase ULK1 and the adapter proteins ATG13, RB1CC1, and ATG101, is centrally involved in the regulation of autophagy initiation. This complex is in turn regulated by the activity of different nutrient- or energy-sensing kinases, including MTOR, AMPK, and AKT. However, next to phosphorylation processes it has been suggested that ubiquitination of ULK1 positively influences ULK1 function. Here we report that the inhibition of deubiquitinases by the compound WP1130 leads to increased ULK1 ubiquitination, the transfer of ULK1 to aggresomes, and the inhibition of ULK1 activity. Additionally, WP1130 can block the autophagic flux. Thus, treatment with WP1130 might represent an efficient tool to inhibit the autophagy-initiating ULK1 complex and autophagy.
autophagy; deubiquitinases; ubiquitination; ULK1; WP1130
In the present study we have established a vital role of autophagy in retinoic acid (RA)-induced differentiation of toll-like receptor (TLR)-stimulated human B cells into Ig-secreting cells. Thus, RA enhanced autophagy in TLR9- and CD180-stimulated peripheral blood B cells, as revealed by increased levels of the autophagosomal marker LC3B-II, enhanced colocalization between LC3B and the lysosomal marker Lyso-ID, by a larger percentage of cells with more than 5 characteristic LC3B puncta, and by the concomitant reduction in the level of SQSTM1/p62. Furthermore, RA induced expression of the autophagy-inducing protein ULK1 at the transcriptional level, in a process that required the retinoic acid receptor RAR. By inhibiting autophagy with specific inhibitors or by knocking down ULK1 by siRNA, the RA-stimulated IgG production in TLR9- and CD180-mediated cells was markedly reduced. We propose that the identified prominent role of autophagy in RA-mediated IgG-production in normal human B cells provides a novel mechanism whereby vitamin A exerts its important functions in the immune system.
antibody secretion; autophagy; B lymphocytes; CD180; plasma cell differentiation; retinoic acid; RP105; TLR9; ULK1; ATG, autophagy-related; BDS, bright detail similarity; CD180, CD180 molecule; CVID, common variable immune deficiency; ELISA, enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay; Ig, immunoglobulin; IL, interleukin; MAP1LC3B/LC3B, microtubule-associated protein 1 light chain 3 β; MTOR, mechanistic target of rapamycin (serine/threonine kinase); PAMP, pathogen-associated molecular pattern, PML/RARA, promyelocytic leukemia/ retinoic acid receptor α; RA, all-trans retinoic acid; RAR, retinoic acid receptor; SQSTM1, sequestosome 1; TLR, toll-like receptor; ULK1, unc-51 like autophagy activating kinase 1
Vaccines aiming to promote T-cell-mediated immune responses have so far showed limited efficacy, and there is a need for novel strategies. Studies indicate that autophagy plays an inherent role in antigen processing and presentation for CD4+ and CD8+ T cells. Here, we report a novel vaccine strategy based on fusion of antigen to the selective autophagy receptor sequestosome 1 (SQSTM1)/p62. We hypothesized that redirection of vaccine antigen from proteasomal degradation into the autophagy pathway would increase the generation of antigen-specific T cells. A hybrid vaccine construct was designed in which the antigen is fused to the C-terminus of p62, a signaling hub, and a receptor that naturally delivers ubiquitinated cargo for autophagic degradation. Fusion of the human immunodeficiency virus-1 antigen Gagp24 to p62 resulted in efficient antigen delivery into the autophagy pathway. Intradermal immunization of mice revealed that, in comparison to Gagp24 delivered alone, fusion to p62 enhanced the number of Gagp24-specific interferon-γ-producing T cells, including CD8+ T cells. The strategy may also have the potential to modulate the antigenic peptide repertoire. Because p62 and autophagy are highly conserved between species, we anticipate this strategy to be a candidate for the development of T-cell-based vaccines in humans.
vaccine; T cell responses; p62/SQSTM1; autophagy; HIV-1 gagp24 antigen
Autophagy, a homeostatic process whereby eukaryotic cells target cytoplasmic cargo for degradation, plays a broad role in health and disease states. Here we screened the TRIM family for roles in autophagy and found that half of TRIMs modulated autophagy. In mechanistic studies we show that TRIMs associate with autophagy factors and act as platforms assembling ULK1 and Beclin 1 in their activated states. Furthermore, TRIM5α acts as a selective autophagy receptor. Based on direct sequence-specific recognition, TRIM5α delivered its cognate cytosolic target, a viral capsid protein, for autophagic degradation. Thus, our study establishes that TRIMs can function both as regulators of autophagy and as autophagic cargo receptors, and reveals a new basis for selective autophagy in mammalian cells.
Orofacial granulomatosis is a chronic granulomatous condition characterized by relapsing and remitting lip swelling and oral involvement that may include deep ulcers, tags and cobblestone formation. It occurs as an independent entity but also in conjunction with systemic diseases such as tuberculosis, sarcoidosis and Crohn’s disease. The clinical presentation is not indicative of concomitant systemic disease. To highlight the importance of thorough examination to rule out systemic disease, we present two childhood cases of orofacial granulomatosis, one of which was associated to Crohn’s disease.
orofacial granulomatosis; children; Chron's disease
SNX18 promotes autophagosome formation by remodeling membranes and providing membrane to forming autophagosomes.
The membrane remodeling events required for autophagosome biogenesis are still poorly understood. Because PX domain proteins mediate membrane remodeling and trafficking, we conducted an imaging-based siRNA screen for autophagosome formation targeting human PX proteins. The PX-BAR protein SNX18 was identified as a positive regulator of autophagosome formation, and its Drosophila melanogaster homologue SH3PX1 was found to be required for efficient autophagosome formation in the larval fat body. We show that SNX18 is required for recruitment of Atg16L1-positive recycling endosomes to a perinuclear area and for delivery of Atg16L1- and LC3-positive membranes to autophagosome precursors. We identify a direct interaction of SNX18 with LC3 and show that the pro-autophagic activity of SNX18 depends on its membrane binding and tubulation capacity. We also show that the function of SNX18 in membrane tubulation and autophagy is negatively regulated by phosphorylation of S233. We conclude that SNX18 promotes autophagosome formation by virtue of its ability to remodel membranes and provide membrane to forming autophagosomes.
Cellular responses to DNA damage involve distinct DNA repair pathways, such as mismatch repair (MMR) and base excision repair (BER). Using Caenorhabditis elegans as a model system, we present genetic and molecular evidence of a mechanistic link between processing of DNA damage and activation of autophagy. Here we show that the BER AP endonucleases APN-1 and EXO-3 function in the same pathway as MMR, to elicit DNA-directed toxicity in response to 5-fluorouracil, a mainstay of systemic adjuvant treatment of solid cancers. Immunohistochemical analyses suggest that EXO-3 generates the DNA nicks required for MMR activation. Processing of DNA damage via this pathway, in which both BER and MMR enzymes are required, leads to induction of autophagy in C. elegans and human cells. Hence, our data show that MMR- and AP endonuclease-dependent processing of 5-fluorouracil-induced DNA damage leads to checkpoint activation and induction of autophagy, whose hyperactivation contributes to cell death.
The chemotherapeutic drug 5-fluorouracil causes cell toxicity by inducing DNA lesions. Here, SenGupta et al. use C. elegans to show that components of the base excision repair and the mismatch repair pathways function together in the response to 5-fluorouracil, resulting in activation of the DNA damage checkpoint and induction of autophagy.
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
In 2008 we published the first set of guidelines for standardizing research in autophagy. Since then, research on this topic has continued to accelerate, and many new scientists have entered the field. Our knowledge base and relevant new technologies have also been expanding. Accordingly, it is important to update these guidelines for monitoring autophagy in different organisms. Various reviews have described the range of assays that have been used for this purpose. Nevertheless, there continues to be confusion regarding acceptable methods to measure autophagy, especially in multicellular eukaryotes. A key point that needs to be emphasized is that there is a difference between measurements that monitor the numbers or volume of autophagic elements (e.g., autophagosomes or autolysosomes) at any stage of the autophagic process vs. those that measure flux through the autophagy pathway (i.e., the complete process); thus, a block in macroautophagy that results in autophagosome accumulation needs to be differentiated from stimuli that result in increased autophagic activity, defined as increased autophagy induction coupled with increased delivery to, and degradation within, lysosomes (in most higher eukaryotes and some protists such as Dictyostelium) or the vacuole (in plants and fungi). In other words, it is especially important that investigators new to the field understand that the appearance of more autophagosomes does not necessarily equate with more autophagy. In fact, in many cases, autophagosomes accumulate because of a block in trafficking to lysosomes without a concomitant change in autophagosome biogenesis, whereas an increase in autolysosomes may reflect a reduction in degradative activity. Here, we present a set of guidelines for the selection and interpretation of methods for use by investigators who aim to examine macroautophagy and related processes, as well as for reviewers who need to provide realistic and reasonable critiques of papers that are focused on these processes. These guidelines are 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 monitor autophagy. In these guidelines, we consider these various methods of assessing autophagy and what information can, or cannot, be obtained from them. Finally, by discussing the merits and limits of particular autophagy assays, we hope to encourage technical innovation in the field.
LC3; autolysosome; autophagosome; flux; lysosome; phagophore; stress; 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
The presence of ubiquitinated protein inclusions is a hallmark of most adult onset neurodegenerative disorders. Although the toxicity of these structures remains controversial, their prolonged presence in neurons is indicative of some failure in fundamental cellular processes. It therefore may be possible that driving the elimination of inclusions can help re-establish normal cellular function. There is growing evidence that macroautophagy has two roles; first, as a non-selective degradative response to cellular stress such as starvation, and the other as a highly selective quality control mechanism whose basal levels are important to maintain cellular health. One particular form of macroautophagy, aggrephagy, may have particular relevance in neurodegeneration, as it is responsible for the selective elimination of accumulated and aggregated ubiquitinated proteins. In this review, we will discuss the molecular mechanisms and role of protein aggregation in neurodegeneration, as well as the molecular mechanism of aggrephagy and how it may impact disease.
autophagy; protein aggregates; neurodegeneration; ubiquitination; p62; ALFY; aggresome; neurons
Suppression of macroautophagy, due to mutations or through processes linked to aging, results in the accumulation of cytoplasmic substrates that are normally eliminated by the pathway. This is a significant problem in long-lived cells like neurons, where pathway defects can result in the accumulation of aggregates containing ubiquitinated proteins. The p62/Ref(2)P family of proteins is involved in the autophagic clearance of cytoplasmic protein bodies or sequestosomes. These unique structures are closely associated with protein inclusions containing ubiquitin as well as key components of the autophagy pathway. In this study we show that detergent fractionation followed by western blot analysis of insoluble ubiquitinated proteins (IUP), mammalian p62 and its Drosophila homologue, Ref(2)P can be used to quantitatively assess the activity level of aggregate clearance (aggrephagy) in complex tissues. Using this technique we show that genetic or age-dependent changes that modify the long-term enhancement or suppression of aggrephagy can be identified. Moreover, using the Drosophila model system this method can be used to establish autophagy-dependent protein clearance profiles that are occurring under a wide range of physiological conditions including developmental, fasting and altered metabolic pathways. This technique can also be used to examine proteopathies that are associated with human disorders such as frontotemporal dementia, Huntington and Alzheimer disease. Our findings indicate that measuring IUP profiles together with an assessment of p62/Ref(2)P proteins can be used as a screening or diagnostic tool to characterize genetic and age-dependent factors that alter the long-term function of autophagy and the clearance of protein aggregates occurring within complex tissues and cells.
p62; Ref(2)P; insoluble ubiquitinated proteins; aggregates; neural degeneration; Alzheimer disease; aging; macroautophagy
Autophagy is a catabolic pathway conserved among eukaryotes that allows cells to rapidly eliminate large unwanted structures such as aberrant protein aggregates, superfluous or damaged organelles, and invading pathogens. The hallmark of this transport pathway is the sequestration of the cargoes that have to be degraded in the lysosomes by double-membrane vesicles called autophagosomes. The key actors mediating the biogenesis of these carriers are the autophagy-related genes (ATGs). For a long time, it was assumed that autophagy is a bulk process. Recent studies, however, have highlighted the capacity of this pathway to exclusively eliminate specific structures and thus better fulfil the catabolic necessities of the cell. We are just starting to unveil the regulation and mechanism of these selective types of autophagy, but what it is already clearly emerging is that structures targeted to destruction are accurately enwrapped by autophagosomes through the action of specific receptors and adaptors. In this paper, we will briefly discuss the impact that the selective types of autophagy have had on our understanding of autophagy.
Degradation of different cargo by macroautophagy is emerging as a highly selective process which relies upon specific autophagy receptors and adapter molecules that link the cargo with the autophagic molecular machinery. We have recently reported that the large phsophatidylinositol-3-phosphate (PtdIns(3)P)-binding protein Alfy (Autophagy-linked FYVE protein) is required for selective degradation of aggregated proteins. Although depletion of Alfy inhibits Atg5-dependent aggregate degradation, overexpression of Alfy results in Atg5-dependent aggregate clearance and neuroprotection. Alfy-mediated degradation requires the ability of Alfy to directly interact with Atg5. This ability to interact with the core autophagic machinery may cause Alfy to diminish the responsiveness to nonselective autophagic degradation as measured by long-lived protein degradation. Thus, increasing Alfy-mediated protein degradation may be beneficial in some organs, but may be detrimental in others.
autophagy; protein aggregates; neurodegeneration; Alfy; aggregation; degradation
There is growing evidence that macroautophagic cargo is not limited to bulk cytosol in response to starvation, and can occur selectively for substrates including aggregated proteins. It remains unclear, however, if starvation-induced and selective macroautophagy share identical adapter molecules to capture their cargo. Here we report that Alfy, a phosphatidylinositol 3-phosphate binding protein, is central to the selective elimination of aggregated proteins. We report that the loss of Alfy inhibits the clearance of inclusions, with little to no effect on the starvation response. Alfy is recruited to intracellular inclusions and scaffolds a complex between p62(SQSTM1)-positive proteins and the autophagic effectors Atg5, Atg12, Atg16L and LC3. Alfy overexpression leads to elimination of aggregates in an Atg5-dependent manner, and likewise, to protection in a neuronal and Drosophila model of polyglutamine toxicity. We propose that Alfy plays a key role in selective macroautophagy, by bridging cargo to the molecular machinery that builds autophagosomes.
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.
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
Since the first morphological description of autophagosomes in the early 1960s, two critical questions have been a matter of intense investigation and debate: what is the origin of the autophagosomal membrane and how is it formed? A study by Axe et al. (E.L. Axe, S.A. Walker, M. Manifava, P. Chandra, H.L. Roderick, A. Habermann, G. Griffiths, and N.T. Ktistakis. 2008. J. Cell Biol. 182:685–701) provides evidence that cup-shaped protrusions from the endoplasmic reticulum, named omegasomes, serve as platforms for autophagosome biogenesis in mammalian cells.
p62 has been proposed to mark ubiquitinated protein bodies for autophagic degradation. We report that the Drosophila melanogaster p62 orthologue, Ref(2)P, is a regulator of protein aggregation in the adult brain. We demonstrate that Ref(2)P localizes to age-induced protein aggregates as well as to aggregates caused by reduced autophagic or proteasomal activity. A similar localization to protein aggregates is also observed in D. melanogaster models of human neurodegenerative diseases. Although atg8a autophagy mutant flies show accumulation of ubiquitin- and Ref(2)P-positive protein aggregates, this is abrogated in atg8a/ref(2)P double mutants. Both the multimerization and ubiquitin binding domains of Ref(2)P are required for aggregate formation in vivo. Our findings reveal a major role for Ref(2)P in the formation of ubiquitin-positive protein aggregates both under physiological conditions and when normal protein turnover is inhibited.
The endosomal sorting complexes required for transport (ESCRTs) are required to sort integral membrane proteins into intralumenal vesicles of the multivesicular body (MVB). Mutations in the ESCRT-III subunit CHMP2B were recently associated with frontotemporal dementia and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), neurodegenerative diseases characterized by abnormal ubiquitin-positive protein deposits in affected neurons. We show here that autophagic degradation is inhibited in cells depleted of ESCRT subunits and in cells expressing CHMP2B mutants, leading to accumulation of protein aggregates containing ubiquitinated proteins, p62 and Alfy. Moreover, we find that functional MVBs are required for clearance of TDP-43 (identified as the major ubiquitinated protein in ALS and frontotemporal lobar degeneration with ubiquitin deposits), and of expanded polyglutamine aggregates associated with Huntington's disease. Together, our data indicate that efficient autophagic degradation requires functional MVBs and provide a possible explanation to the observed neurodegenerative phenotype seen in patients with CHMP2B mutations.