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1.  Quantitation of “autophagic flux” in mature skeletal muscle 
Autophagy  2010;6(7):929-935.
Reliable and quantitative assays to measure in vivo autophagy are essential. Currently, there are varied methods for monitoring autophagy; however, it is a challenge to measure “autophagic flux” in an in vivo model system. Conversion and subsequent degradation of the microtubule-associated protein 1 light chain 3 (MAP1-LC3/LC3) to the autophagosome associated LC3-II isoform can be evaluated by immunoblot. However, static levels of endogenous LC3-II protein may render possible misinterpretations since LC3-II levels can increase, decrease or remain unchanged in the setting of autophagic induction. Therefore, it is necessary to measure LC3-II protein levels in the presence and absence of lysomotropic agents that block the degradation of LC3-II, a technique aptly named the “autophagometer.” In order to measure autophagic flux in mouse skeletal muscle, we treated animals with the microtubule depolarizing agent colchicine. Two days of 0.4 mg/kg/day intraperitoneal colchicine blocked autophagosome maturation to autolysosomes and increased LC3-II protein levels in mouse skeletal muscle by >100%. the addition of an autophagic stimulus such as dietary restriction or rapamycin led to an additional increase in LC3-II above that seen with colchicine alone. Moreover, this increase was not apparent in the absence of a “colchicine block.” Using this assay, we evaluated the autophagic response in skeletal muscle upon denervation induced atrophy. Our studies highlight the feasibility of performing an “in vivo autophagometer” study using colchicine in skeletal muscle.
doi:10.4161/auto.6.7.12785
PMCID: PMC3039739  PMID: 20657169
autophagy; rapamycin; skeletal muscle
3.  Quantitation of selective autophagic protein aggregate degradation in vitro and in vivo using luciferase reporters 
Autophagy  2009;5(4):511-519.
The analysis of autophagy in cells and tissue has principally been performed via qualitative measures. These assays identify autophagosomes or measure the conversion of LC3I to LC3II. However, qualitative assays fail to quantitate the degradation of an autophagic substrate and therefore only indirectly measure an intact autophagic system. “Autophagic flux” can be measured using long-lived proteins that are degraded via autophagy. We developed a quantifiable luciferase reporter assay that measures the degradation of a long-lived polyglutamine protein aggregate, polyQ80-luciferase. Using this reporter, the induction of autophagy via starvation or rapamycin in cells preferentially decreases polyQ80-luciferase when compared with a non-aggregating polyQ19-luciferase after four hours of treatment. This response was both time- and concentration-dependent, prevented by autophagy inhibitors and absent in ATG5 knockout cells. We adapted this assay to living animals by electroporating polyQ19-luciferase and polyQ80-luciferase expression constructs into the right and left tibialis anterior (TA) muscles of mice, respectively. The change in the ratio of polyQ80-luciferase to polyQ19-luciferase signal before and after autophagic stimulation or inhibition was quantified via in vivo bioluminescent imaging. Following two days of starvation or treatment with intraperitoneal rapamycin, there was a ~35% reduction in the ratio of polyQ80:polyQ19-luciferase activity, consistent with the selective autophagic degradation of polyQ80 protein. This autophagic response in skeletal muscle in vivo was abrogated by co-treatment with chloroquine and in ATG16L1 hypomorphic mice. Our study demonstrates a method to quantify the autophagic flux of an expanded polyglutamine via luciferase reporters in vitro and in vivo.
PMCID: PMC2992796  PMID: 19305149

Results 1-3 (3)