The retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) is a single layer of nonregenerating cells essential to homeostasis in the retina and the preservation of vision. While the RPE perform a number of important functions, 2 essential processes are phagocytosis, which removes the most distal tips of the photoreceptors to support disk renewal, and the visual cycle, which maintains the supply of chromophore for regeneration of photo-bleached visual pigments. We recently reported that these processes are linked by a noncanonical form of autophagy termed LC3-associated phagocytosis (LAP) in which components of the autophagy pathway are co-opted by phagocytosis to recover vitamin A in support of optimal vision. Here we summarize these findings.
autophagy; phagocytosis; vision; visual cycle; 11-cis retinal; vitamin A; all-trans retinol; ATG5; LC3; retinal pigment epithelium; photoreceptors
Vibrio parahemolyticus Type III effector VopQ is both necessary and sufficient to induce autophagy within one hour of infection. We demonstrated that VopQ interacts with the Vo domain of the conserved vacuolar H+-ATPase. Membrane-associated VopQ subsequently forms pores in the membranes of acidic compartments, resulting in immediate release of protons without concomitant release of lumenal protein contents. These studies show how a bacterial pathogen can compromise host ion potentials using a gated pore-forming effector to equilibrate levels of small molecules found in endolysosomal compartments and disrupt cellular processes such as autophagy.
T3SS; virulence factor; autophagy; channel; pore; VopQ; Vibrio
Macroautophagy (hereafter autophagy) initiates at the phagophore assembly site (PAS), where most of the AuTophaGy-related (Atg) proteins are at least transiently localized. As the first protein complex targeted to the PAS, the Atg17-Atg31-Atg29 complex serves as the scaffold for other Atg proteins and plays a critical role for the organization of the PAS, and in autophagy initiation. We recently showed that this complex is constitutively formed and activated by the phosphorylation of Atg29 when autophagy is induced. Phosphorylation of Atg29 is required for its interaction with Atg11, another scaffold protein, and its function for promoting the proper assembly of the PAS. Single-particle electron microscopy analysis of the Atg17-Atg31-Atg29 complex reveals an elongated structure with Atg29 located at the opposing ends. This structural arrangement allows Atg29 to interact with Atg11, and is critical in the organization of the intact Atg1 complex.
autophagy; PAS; scaffold; vacuole; yeast
As a highly dynamic organelle, mitochondria undergo constitutive fusion and fission as well as biogenesis and degradation. Mitophagy, selective mitochondrial degradation through autophagy, is a conserved cellular process used for the elimination of excessive and damaged mitochondria in eukaryotes. Despite the significance of mitophagy in cellular physiology and pathophysiologies, the underlying mechanism of this process is far from clear. In this report, we studied the role of mitochondrial fission during mitophagy, and uncover a direct link between the fission complex and mitophagy machinery in Saccharomyces cerevisiae.
mitophagy; phagophore; stress; vacuole; yeast
MCL1 (myeloid cell leukemia sequence 1 [BCL2-related]) is an anti-apoptotic BCL2 family protein that is upregulated in several human cancers. In malignancies, overexpression of MCL1 promotes cell survival and confers chemotherapeutic resistance. MCL1 is also highly expressed in normal myocardium, but the functional importance of MCL1 in myocytes has not been explored. We recently discovered that MCL1 plays an essential role in myocardial homeostasis and autophagy. Here, we discuss how loss of MCL1 in the adult mouse heart leads to mitochondrial dysfunction, impaired autophagy and development of heart failure.
autophagy; BCL2; heart failure; MCL1; mitochondria
Therapy-induced autophagy is recognized as a critical determinant of treatment outcome in cancer patients, primarily as a factor underlying drug resistance. However, recent investigations point toward a context-dependent, death-inducing role for autophagy, the mechanism of which remains largely unknown. Our recent study provides evidence that autophagy can directly mediate cell killing in multiple tumor cell types by facilitating degradation of KRAS/K-Ras, a key survival protein. These findings have broad implications for strategies employing autophagy modulation to target tumor cells.
autophagy; KRAS; tamoxifen; PRKC; EGFR; tumor cells
The mechanisms by which the TP53/TRP53 transcription factor acts as a tumor suppressor remain incompletely understood. To gain new insights into TP53/TRP53 biology, we used ChIP-seq and RNA-seq technologies to define global TRP53 transcriptional networks in primary cells subjected to DNA damage. Intriguingly, we identified a TRP53-regulated autophagy program, which can be coordinately regulated by the TRP53 family members TRP63 and TRP73 in certain settings. While autophagy is not involved in TRP53-dependent cell cycle arrest, it contributes to both TRP53-driven apoptosis in response to DNA damage and TRP53-mediated transformation suppression. Collectively, our genome-wide analyses reveal a profound role for TRP53 in regulating autophagy, through an extensive transcriptional network, and have demonstrated an important role for this program in promoting TRP53-mediated apoptosis and tumor suppression.
p53; ChIP-seq; RNA-seq; tumor suppression; autophagy; apoptosis
Autophagy is an evolutionarily conserved process in eukaryotic cells that functions to degrade cytoplasmic components in the vacuole or lysosome. Previous research indicates that the core molecular machinery of autophagosome formation works well in plants, and plant autophagy plays roles in diverse biological processes such as nutrient recycling, development, immunity and responses to a variety of abiotic stresses. Recently, we reported that autophagy contributed to leaf starch degradation, which had been thought to be a process confined to chloroplasts. This finding demonstrated a previously unidentified pathway of leaf starch depletion and a new role of basal autophagy in plants.
autophagy; ATG; leaf starch degradation; SSGL; stromule
The effects of ABL1/ABL inhibition on clearance of SNCA/α-synuclein were evaluated in animal models of α-synucleinopathies. Parkinson disease (PD) is a movement disorder characterized by death of dopaminergic substantia nigra (SN) neurons and brain accumulation of SNCA. The tyrosine kinase ABL1 is activated in several neurodegenerative diseases. An increase in ABL1 activity is detected in human postmortem PD brains. Lentiviral expression of SNCA in the mouse SN activates ABL1 via phosphorylation, while lentiviral Abl expression increases SNCA levels. Administration of the brain-penetrant tyrosine kinase inhibitor Nilotinib decreases Abl activity and facilitates autophagic clearance of SNCA in transgenic and lentiviral gene transfer models. Subcellular fractionation demonstrates accumulation of SNCA and hyperphosphorylated MAPT/Tau (p-MAPT) in autophagic vacuoles in SNCA-expressing brains, while Nilotinib treatment leads to protein deposition into the lysosomes, suggesting enhanced autophagic clearance. These data suggest that Nilotinib may be a therapeutic strategy to degrade SNCA in PD and other α-synucleinopathies.
Nilotinib; Tau; autophagy; dopamine; α-synuclein
Yeast studies identified the evolutionarily conserved core ATG genes responsible for autophagosome formation. However, the SNARE-dependent machinery involved in autophagosome fusion with the vacuole in yeast is not conserved. We recently reported that the SNARE complex consisting of Syx17 (Syntaxin 17), ubisnap (SNAP-29) and Vamp7 is required for the fusion of autophagosomes with late endosomes and lysosomes in Drosophila. Syx17 mutant flies are viable but exhibit neuronal dysfunction, locomotion defects and premature death. These data point to the critical role of autophagosome clearance in organismal homeodynamics.
autophagy; autophagosome; Drosophila; lysosome; neurodegeneration; SNARE; Syntaxin 17; ubisnap/SNAP-29; Vamp7
Autophagy activity is essential for the survival of neural cells. Impairment of autophagy has been implicated in the pathogenesis of neurodegenerative disorders. Unlike the massive neuron loss in mice deficient for autophagy genes essential for autophagosome formation, we demonstrated that mice deficient for the metazoan-specific autophagy gene Epg5 develop selective neuronal damage and exhibit key characteristics of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Epg5 deficiency blocks the maturation of autophagosomes into degradative autolysosomes, slows endocytic degradation and also impairs endocytic recycling. Recessive mutations in human EPG5 have recently been causally associated with the multisystem disorder Vici syndrome. Here we show that while Epg5 knockout mice display some features of Vici syndrome, many phenotypes are absent.
autophagy; autophagosome; Epg5; Vici syndrome; neurodegeneration
Parkinson disease (PD) is characterized by the progressive loss of nigral dopamine neurons and the presence of accumulations containing the disease-causing protein SNCA/α-synuclein. Here we review our recent findings describing how SNCA impairs the function of the master regulator of the autophagy-lysosomal pathway (ALP), the transcription factor EB (TFEB), and that genetic or pharmacological stimulation of its activity promotes protection of dopamine neurons. These findings suggest that strategies aimed at enhancing autophagy-mediated degradation of SNCA may hold great promise for disease intervention in PD.
alpha-synuclein; Parkinson disease; TFEB; MIR128; temsirolimus; dopamine; macroautophagy; neurodegeneration
Autophagy describes the degradation of unnecessary or dysfunctional cellular components through the lysosomal machinery. Autophagy is essentially required to prevent accumulation of cellular damage and to ensure cellular homeostasis. Indeed, impaired autophagy has been implicated in a variety of different diseases. We examined the role of autophagy in inflammatory bone loss. We demonstrated that autophagy is activated by the pro-inflammatory cytokine tumor necrosis factor (TNF/TNFα) in osteoclasts of patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Autophagy induces osteoclast differentiation and stimulates osteoclast-mediated bone resorption in vitro and in vivo, thereby highlighting autophagy as a novel mediator of TNF-induced bone resorption.
TNFα; arthritis; autophagy; bone resorption; osteoclasts
To advance understanding of the complex genetics of Crohn disease (CD) we sequenced 42 whole exomes of patients with CD and five healthy control individuals, resulting in identification of a missense mutation in the autophagy receptor calcium binding and coiled-coil domain 2 (CALCOCO2/NDP52) gene. Protein domain modeling and functional studies highlight the potential role of this mutation in controlling NFKB signaling downstream of toll-like receptor (TLR) pathways. We summarize our recent findings and discuss the role of autophagy as a major modulator of proinflammatory signaling in the context of chronic inflammation.
Crohn disease; autophagy; CALCOCO2; NDP52; inflammation; NF-kappaB; toll-like receptor; adaptophagy
Phosphatidylinositol phosphates are key regulators of vesicle identity, formation and trafficking. In mammalian cells, the evolutionarily conserved class III PtdIns 3-kinase PIK3C3/VPS34 is part of a large multiprotein complex that catalyzes the localized phosphorylation of phosphatidylinositol to phosphatidylinositol-3-phosphate (PtdIns3P). We demonstrate that PIK3C3 has a key function in vesicular trafficking, endocytosis and autophagosome-autolysosome formation in the highly specialized glomerular podocytes.
podocyte; Vps34; phosphoinositide 3-kinase; Pik3c3; endocytosis; autophagy; autophago-lysosomal formation; glomerulosclerosis; proteinuria
The N-end rule pathway is a cellular proteolytic system that utilizes specific N-terminal residues as degradation determinants, called N-degrons. N-degrons are recognized and bound by specific recognition components (N-recognins) that mediate polyubiquitination of low-abundance regulators and selective proteolysis through the proteasome. Our earlier work identified UBR4/p600 as one of the N-recognins that promotes N-degron-dependent proteasomal degradation. In this study, we show that UBR4 is associated with cellular cargoes destined to autophagic vacuoles and is degraded by the lysosome. UBR4 loss causes multiple misregulations in autophagic pathways, including an increased formation of LC3 puncta. UBR4-deficient mice die during embryogenesis primarily due to defective vascular development in the yolk sac (YS), wherein UBR4 is associated with a bulk lysosomal degradation system that absorbs maternal proteins from the YS cavity and digests them into amino acids. Our results suggest that UBR4 plays a role not only in selective proteolysis of short-lived regulators through the proteasome, but also bulk degradation through the lysosome. Here, we discuss a possible mechanism of UBR4 as a regulatory component in the delivery of cargoes destined to interact with the autophagic core machinery.
N-recognin; UBR box; UBR4; angiogenesis; ubiquitin ligase; yolk sac
Epithelial to mesenchymal transition (EMT) has become one of the most exciting fields in cancer biology. While its role in cancer cell invasion, metastasis and drug resistance is well established, the molecular basis of EMT-induced immune escape remains unknown. We recently reported that EMT coordinately regulates target cell recognition and sensitivity to specific lysis. In addition to the well-characterized role for EMT in tumor phenotypic change including a tumor-initiating cell phenotype, we provided evidence indicating that EMT-induced tumor cell resistance to cytotoxic T-lymphocytes (CTLs) also correlates with autophagy induction. Silencing of BECN1 in target cells that have gone through the EMT restored CTL susceptibility to CTL-induced lysis. Although EMT may represent a critical target for the development of novel immunotherapy approaches, a more detailed understanding of the inter-relationship between EMT and autophagy and their reciprocal regulation will be a key determinant in the rational approach to future tumor immunotherapy design.
epithelial mesenchymal transition; autophagy; cytotoxic T-lymphocytes; breast cancer
Evasion of apoptosis, which enables cells to survive and proliferate under metabolic stress, is one of the hallmarks of cancer. We have recently reported that SH3GLB1/Bif-1 functions as a haploinsufficient tumor suppressor to prevent the acquisition of apoptosis resistance and malignant transformation during Myc-driven lymphomagenesis. SH3GLB1 is a membrane curvature-inducing protein that interacts with BECN1 though UVRAG and regulates the post-Golgi trafficking of membrane-integrated ATG9A for autophagy. At the premalignant stage, allelic loss of Sh3glb1 enhances Myc-induced chromosomal instability and results in the upregulation of anti-apoptotic proteins, including MCL1 and BCL2L1. Notably, we found that Sh3glb1 haploinsufficiency increases mitochondrial mass in overproliferated prelymphomatous Eμ-Myc cells. Moreover, loss of Sh3glb1 suppresses autophagy-dependent mitochondrial clearance (mitophagy) in PARK2/Parkin-expressing mouse embryonic fibroblasts (MEFs) treated with the mitochondrial uncoupler CCCP. Interestingly, PARK2-expressing Sh3glb1-deficient cells accumulate ER-associated immature autophagosome-like structures after treatment with CCCP. Taken together, we propose a model of mitophagy in which SH3GLB1 together with the class III phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase complex II (PIK3C3CII) (PIK3R4-PIK3C3-BECN1-UVRAG) regulates the trafficking of ATG9A-containing Golgi-derived membranes (A9+GDMs) to damaged mitochondria for autophagosome formation to counteract oncogene-driven tumorigenesis.
SH3GLB1/Bif-1; MYC; MCL1; lymphoma; apoptosis; autophagy; mitophagy; malignant transformation; DNA damage; chromosome instability
The class III phosphatidylinositol (PtdIns)-3 kinase, PIK3C3/VPS34, forms multiple complexes and regulates a variety of cellular functions, especially in intracellular vesicle trafficking and autophagy. Even though PtdIns3P, the product of PIK3C3, is thought to be a critical membrane marker for the autophagosome, it is unclear how PIK3C3 is regulated in response to autophagy-inducing stimuli. A complexity of PIK3C3 biology is due in part to the existence of multiple complexes, of which the ATG14- or UVRAG-containing complexes play important roles in autophagy. We recently discovered differential regulation of distinct PIK3C3 complexes in response to energy starvation and showed a mechanism by which AMPK directly phosphorylates PIK3C3 and BECN1 to regulate non- and pro-autophagic PIK3C3 complexes, respectively.
VPS34 complexes; AMPK; BECN1; ATG14; autophagy
Atg13 is a subunit of the Atg1 complex that is involved in autophagy. The middle and C-terminal regions of Atg13 are intrinsically disordered and rich in regulatory phosphorylation sites. Thus far, there have been no structural data for any part of Atg13, and no function assigned to its N-terminal domain. We crystallized this domain, and found that it has a HORMA (Hop1, Rev7, Mad2) fold. We showed that the Atg13 HORMA domain is required for autophagy and for recruitment of the phosphatidylinositol (PtdIns) 3-kinase subunit Atg14, but is not required for Atg1 interaction or Atg13 recruitment to the PAS. The HORMA domain of Atg13 is similar to the closed conformation of the spindle checkpoint protein Mad2. A pair of conserved arginines was identified in the structure, and tested functionally in yeast. These residues are important for autophagy, as mutations abrogate autophagy and block Atg14 recruitment. The location of these Arg residues in the structure suggests that the Atg13 HORMA domain could act as a phosphorylation-dependent conformational switch.
Atg13; HORMA; Atg14; protein structure; protein crystallography; yeast genetics; protein degradation
Combined saposin A and saposin B deficiency (AB−/−) was created in mice by knock-in of point mutations into the saposin A and B domains of the Psap (encoding prosaposin) locus. PSAP is the precursor of saposin A, saposin B and two other members, saposin C and saposin D. Those four saposins have multiple functions including their roles as glycosphingolipid activator proteins in a lysosomal glycosphingolipid degradation pathway. Saposin A participates in the removal of galactose from galactosylceramide and galactosylsphingosine by enhancing β-galactosylceramidase activity. Saposin B has lipid binding properties and is involved in glycosphingolipid metabolism by presenting the substrates to specific enzymes for degradation, i.e., sulfatide to ARSA/arylsulfatase A, lactosylceramide to GALC/GM-1-β-galactosylceramidase, and globotriaosylceramide to GLA/α-galactosidase. Galactosylceramide and sulfatide are myelin glycosphingolipids involved in carbohydrate interaction between synapses. The AB−/− mice develop accumulation of multiple glycosphingolipids in various organs. Sulfatide and galactosylsphingosine, a deacylated form of galactosylceramide, are the major substrates accumulated in the CNS of AB−/− mice. The latter is a toxic metabolite to oligodendrocytes and results in demyelination and cell death.
saposin; glycosphingolipids; autophagosome; p62; LC3; ubiquitin; lysosome; neurodegeneration
It is hard to find an area of biology in which autophagy is not involved. In fact, the topic extends beyond scientific research to stimulate intellectual exercise and entertainment—autophagy has found its way into a crossword puzzle (Klionsky, 2013). We have found yet another function of autophagy while searching for a better treatment for Pompe disease, a devastating metabolic myopathy resulting from excessive lysosomal glycogen storage. To relieve this glycogen burden, we stimulated lysosomal exocytosis through upregulation of transcription factor EB (TFEB). Overexpression of TFEB in Pompe muscle clears the cells of enlarged lysosomes, reduces glycogen levels, and alleviates autophagic buildup, the major secondary abnormality in Pompe disease. Unexpectedly, the process of exocytosis does not seem to be a purely lysosomal event; vesicles arranged along the plasma membrane are double-labeled with the lysosomal marker LAMP1 and the autophagosomal marker LC3, indicating that TFEB induces the exocytosis of autolysosomes. Furthermore, the effects of TFEB are almost abrogated in autophagy-deficient Pompe mice, suggesting a previously unrecognized role of autophagy in TFEB-mediated cellular clearance.
lysosomal exocytosis; TFEB; acid alpha-glucosidase; lysosomal storage; Pompe disease
Genetic inactivation of PTEN through either gene deletion or mutation is common in metastatic prostate cancer, leading to activation of the phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K-AKT) pathway, which is associated with poor clinical outcomes. The PI3K-AKT pathway plays a central role in various cellular processes supporting cell growth and survival of tumor cells. To date, therapeutic approaches to develop inhibitors targeting the PI3K-AKT pathway have failed in both pre-clinical and clinical trials. We showed that a novel AKT inhibitor, AZD5363, inhibits the AKT downstream pathway by reducing p-MTOR and p-RPS6KB/p70S6K. We specifically reported that AZD5363 monotherapy induces G2 growth arrest and autophagy, but fails to induce significant apoptosis in PC-3 and DU145 prostate cancer cell lines. Blocking autophagy using pharmacological inhibitors (3-methyladenine, chloroquine and bafilomycin A1) or genetic inhibitors (siRNA targeting ATG3 and ATG7) enhances cell death induced by AZD5363 in these prostate cancer cells. Importantly, the combination of AZD5363 with chloroquine significantly reduces tumor volume compared with the control group, and compared with either drug alone in prostate tumor xenograft models. Taken together, these data demonstrate that AKT inhibitor AZD5363, synergizes with the lysosomotropic inhibitor of autophagy, chloroquine, to induce apoptosis and delay tumor progression in prostate cancer models that are resistant to monotherapy, with AZD5363 providing a new therapeutic approach potentially translatable to patients.
AKT inhibitor; cell survival; autophagy; prostate cancer; combination therapy
The phagophore (also called isolation membrane) elongates and encloses a portion of cytoplasm, resulting in formation of the autophagosome. After completion of autophagosome formation, the outer autophagosomal membrane becomes ready to fuse with the lysosome for degradation of enclosed cytoplasmic materials. However, the molecular mechanism for how the fusion of completed autophagosomes with the lysosome is regulated has not been fully understood. We discovered syntaxin 17 (STX17) as an autophagosomal soluble N-ethylmaleimide-sensitive factor attachment protein receptor (SNARE). STX17 has a hairpin-type structure mediated by two transmembrane domains, each containing glycine zipper motifs. This unique transmembrane structure contributes to its specific localization to completed autophagosomes but not to phagophores. STX17 interacts with SNAP29 and the lysosomal SNARE VAMP8, and all of these proteins are required for autophagosome–lysosome fusion. The late recruitment of STX17 to completed autophagosomes could prevent premature fusion of the lysosome with unclosed phagophores.
autophagosome; syntaxin 17; SNARE; glycine zipper motif; hairpin-type structure