Photodynamic therapy (PDT) uses a photosensitizer, light and oxygen to produce extensive oxidative damage to organelles housing the photosensitizer. Although PDT is an efficient trigger of apoptosis, it also induces autophagy in many kinds of cells. Autophagy can serve as both a cell survival and a cell death mechanism. Our previous study indicates that autophagy contributes to cell death after PDT, especially in apoptosis-deficient cells. Here, we provide further evidence to support the role of autophagy in cell killing after PDT. Autophagy was blocked by knockdown of one essential factor, LC3 or Atg7, in MCF-7 cells. The cells were exposed to a range of doses of PDT sensitized by the phthalocyanine Pc 4; steps in autophagy were monitored by western blotting for LC3-II and by fluorescence microscopy for the uptake of monodansylcadaverine or for the distribution of transfected GFP-LC3; and overall cell death was monitored by MTT assay and by clonogenic assay. We find that blocking autophagy increased the survival of MCF-7 cells after PDT and increased the shoulder on the dose-response curve. In response to Pc 4-PDT, Atg7-deficient MCF-7 cells remained capable of robust accumulation of LC3-II, but were defective in comparison to Atg7+ cells in the formation of autophagosomes. We conclude that apoptosis-deficient cells rely on autophagy for cell death after Pc 4-PDT and that the strong activation of LC3 maturation in response to PDT could occur even in cells with limited or no Atg7 expression.
autophagy; LC3; Atg7; apoptosis; photodynamic therapy; cytotoxicity
The accumulation of ubiquitin-positive protein aggregates has been implicated in the pathogenesis of neurodegenerative diseases, heart disease and diabetes. Emerging evidence indicates that the autophagy lysosomal pathway plays a critical role in the clearance of ubiquitin aggregates, a process that is mediated by the ubiquitin binding protein p62. In addition to binding ubiquitin, p62 also interacts with LC3 and transports ubiquitin conjugates to autophagosomes for degradation. The exact regulatory mechanism of this process is still largely unknown. Here we report the identification of Keap1 as a binding partner for p62 and LC3. Keap1 inhibits Nrf2 by sequestering it in the cytosol and preventing its translocation to the nucleus and activation of genes involved in the oxidative stress response. In this study, we found that Keap1 interacts with p62 and LC3 in a stress-inducible manner, and that Keap1 colocalizes with LC3 and p62 in puromycin-induced ubiquitin aggregates. Moreover, p62 serves as a bridge between Keap1 and ubiquitin aggregates and autophagosomes. Finally, genetic ablation of Keap1 leads to the accumulation of ubiquitin aggregates, increased cytotoxicity of misfolded protein aggregates, and defective activation of autophagy. Therefore, this study assigns a novel positive role of Keap1 in upregulating p62-mediated autophagic clearance of ubiquitin aggregates.
Keap1; p62; LC3; autophagy; ubiquitin; Nrf2; autophagosome; protein aggregates; oxidative stress
Parkinson disease; neurodegeneration; Parkin; PINK1; Mfn; mitochondrial dynamics; ubiquitination; Drosophila
Autophagy is a highly regulated intracellular degradation process by which cells remove cytosolic long-lived proteins and damaged organelles. The mitochondrial permeability transition (MPT) results in mitochondrial depolarization and increased reactive oxygen species production, which can trigger autophagy. Therefore, we hypothesized that the MPT may have a role in signaling autophagy in cardiac cells. Mitochondrial membrane potential was lower in HL-1 cells subjected to starvation compared to cells maintained in full medium. Mitochondrial membrane potential was preserved in starved cells treated with cyclosporin A (CsA), suggesting the MPT pore is associated with starvation-induced depolarization. Starvation-induced autophagy in HL-1 cells, neonatal rat cardiomyocytes and adult mouse cardiomyocytes was inhibited by CsA. Starvation failed to induce autophagy in CypD-deficient murine cardiomyocytes, whereas in myocytes from mice overexpressing CypD the levels of autophagy were enhanced even under fed conditions. Collectively, these results demonstrate a role for CypD and the MPT in the initiation of autophagy. We also analyzed the role of the MPT in the degradation of mitochondria by biochemical analysis and electron microscopy. HL-1 cells subjected to starvation in the presence of CsA had higher levels of mitochondrial proteins (by Western blot), more mitochondria and less autophagosomes (by electron microscopy) then cells starved in the absence of CsA. Our results suggest a physiologic function for CypD and the MPT in the regulation of starvation-induced autophagy. Starvation-induced autophagy regulated by CypD and the MPT may represent a homeostatic mechanism for cellular and mitochondrial quality control.
autophagy; cardiac myocyte; cyclophilin D; mitochondrial permeability transition
Autophagy has been predominantly studied as a non-selective self-digestion process that recycles macromolecules and produces energy in response to starvation. However, autophagy independent of nutrient status has long been known to exist. Recent evidence suggests that this form of autophagy enforces intracellular quality control by selectively disposing of aberrant protein aggregates and damaged organelles – common denominators in various forms of neurodegenerative diseases. By definition, this form of autophagy, termed quality-control (QC) autophagy, must be different from nutrient-regulated autophagy in substrate selectivity, regulation, and function. We have recently identified the ubiquitin-binding deacetylase, HDAC6, as a key component that establishes QC. HDAC6 is not required for autophagy activation per se; rather, it is recruited to ubiquitinated autophagic substrates where it stimulates autophagosome-lysosome fusion by promoting F-actin remodeling in a cortactin-dependent manner. Remarkably, HDAC6 and cortactin are dispensable for starvation-induced autophagy. These findings reveal that autophagosomes associated with QC are molecularly and biochemically distinct from those associated with starvation autophagy, thereby providing a new molecular framework to understand the emerging complexity of autophagy and therapeutic potential of this unique machinery.
Murine T cells exposed to rapamycin maintain flexibility towards Th1/Tc1 differentiation, thereby indicating that rapamycin promotion of regulatory T cells (Tregs) is conditional. The degree to which rapamycin might inhibit human Th1/Tc1 differentiation has not been evaluated. In the presence of rapamycin, T cell costimulation and polarization with IL-12 or IFNα permitted human CD4+ and CD8+ T cell differentiation towards a Th1/Tc1 phenotype; activation of STAT1 and STAT4 pathways essential for Th1/Tc1 polarity was preserved during mTOR blockade but instead abrogated by PI3 kinase inhibition. Such rapamycin-resistant human Th1/Tc1 cells: (1) were generated through autophagy (increased LC3BII expression; phenotype reversion by autophagy inhibition via 3-MA or siRNA for Beclin 1); (2) expressed anti-apoptotic bcl-2 family members (reduced Bax, Bak; increased phospho-Bad); (3) maintained mitochondrial membrane potentials; and (4) displayed reduced apoptosis. In vivo, type I polarized and rapamycin-resistant human T cells caused increased xenogeneic graft-versus-host disease (x-GVHD). Murine recipients of rapamycin-resistant human Th1/Tc1 cells had: (1) persistent T cell engraftment; (2) increased T cell cytokine and cytolytic effector function; and (3) T cell infiltration of skin, gut and liver. Rapamycin therefore does not impair human T cell capacity for type I differentiation. Rather, rapamycin yields an anti-apoptotic Th1/Tc1 effector phenotype by promoting autophagy.
Th1/Tc1; rapamycin; autophagy; apoptosis resistance; xenogeneic GVHD
Science informs art, and art informs science. Both processes involve creativity and imagination, and collaboration between scientists and artists often leads to new insights in both fields. We took advantage of the power of artistic imagery to demonstrate a dynamic cellular process, autophagy. In particular, we depicted the cytoplasm to vacuole targeting pathway, which involves dynamic membrane rearrangements to sequester a specific cargo via an autophagy-related process. By depicting this event in the context of a crowded cellular milieu, we hoped to stimulate researchers to consider aspects of the process that might be overlooked in the overly simplistic schematic drawing that typify most scientific models.
collaboration; Cvt complex; membrane; molecular model; organelle; science
The transparency, external development and simple drug administration of zebrafish embryos makes them a useful model for studying autophagy during embryonic development in vivo. Cloning of zebrafish lc3 and generation of a transgenic GFP-Lc3 fish line provide excellent tools to monitor autophagy in this organism.1 This protocol discusses several convenient autophagy assays in zebrafish, including immunoblotting of Lc3 lipidation, microscopy imaging of GFP-Lc3 and lysosomal staining.
lysosome; protein degradation; protein targeting; stress; vacuole
Autophagy is a rapidly expanding field in the sense that our knowledge about the molecular mechanism and its connections to a wide range of physiological processes has increased substantially in the past decade. Similarly, the vocabulary associated with autophagy has grown concomitantly. This fact makes it 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 or chemical agents that induce or inhibit autophagy, the function of the autophagy-related proteins, or the role of accessory machinery or structures that are associated with autophagy.
autophagy; definitions; glossary; lexicon; terms
ATM; cytoplasm; ROS; mTOR; DNA damage
Autophagy is a compensatory pathway involving isolation and subsequent degradation of cytosolic material and organelles in eukaryotic cells.1 The autophagic process can provide a “housekeeping” function by removing damaged proteins and organelles in a selective or nonselective fashion in order to exert a protective effect following stress.2 Remarkably, after being discovered to be much more of a targeted process than a random one, the role of autophagy became implicated in many normal cellular and disease processes.3 Several methodologies are routinely employed to monitor the entire autophagic process.4 Microtubule-associated protein light chain 3, a mammalian homolog of yeast Atg8, has been widely used as a specific marker to monitor autophagy in numerous cell types.5 While monitoring autophagic flux is extremely important, it is also beneficial to perform a detailed analysis by electron microscopy (EM) to evaluate changes in various autophagic structures, quantify the areas involved, and determine if any particular organelle(s) or area of the cell cytoplasm is being targeted for degradation.6 The following article describes methods to localize and quantify subcellular areas of autophagy using transmission EM. Also discussed are methods for subcellular localization of specific proteins by employing immunogold EM; this method becomes particularly useful in detecting early changes in cellular homeostasis that may occur before later signs of cellular insult can be observed morphologically.
autophagy; electron microscopy; immunogold; morphometry; ultra-structure
Cetuximab is an epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR)-blocking antibody that is approved to treat several types of solid cancers in patients. We recently showed that cetuximab can induce autophagy in cancer cells by both inhibiting the class I phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PtdIns3K)/Akt/mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) pathway and activating the class III PtdIns3K (hVps34)/beclin 1 pathway. In the current study, we investigated the relationship between cetuximab-induced autophagy and apoptosis and the biological roles of autophagy in cetuximab-mediated cancer therapy. We found that cetuximab induced autophagy in cancer cells that show strong or weak induction of apoptosis after cetuximab treatment but not in those that show only cytostatic growth inhibition. Inhibition of cetuximab-induced apoptosis by a caspase inhibitor prevented the induction of autophagy. Conversely, inhibition of cetuximab-induced autophagy by silencing the expression of autophagy-related genes (Atg) or treating the cancer cells with lysosomal inhibitors enhanced the cetuximab-induced apoptosis, suggesting that autophagy was a protective cellular response to cetuximab treatment. On the other hand, cotreatment of cancer cells with cetuximab and the mTOR inhibitor rapamycin resulted in an Atg-dependent and lysosomal inhibition-sensitive death of cancer cells that show only growth inhibition or weak apoptosis after cetuximab treatment, indicating that cell death may be achieved by activating the autophagy pathway in these cells. Together, our findings may guide the development of novel clinical strategies for sensitizing cancer cells to EGFR-targeted therapy.
EGFR; cetuximab; autophagy; apoptosis; cancer therapy
Autophagy, an intracellular system for delivering portions of cytoplasm and damaged organelles to lysosomes for degradation/recycling, plays a role in many physiological processes and is disturbed in many diseases. We recently provided evidence for the role of autophagy in Pompe disease, a lysosomal storage disorder in which acid alpha-glucosidase, the enzyme involved in the breakdown of glycogen, is deficient or absent. Clinically the disease manifests as a cardiac and skeletal muscle myopathy. The current enzyme replacement therapy (ERT) clears lysosomal glycogen effectively from the heart but less so from skeletal muscle. In our Pompe model, the poor muscle response to therapy is associated with the presence of pools of autophagic debris. To clear the fibers of the autophagic debris, we have generated a Pompe model in which an autophagy gene, Atg7, is inactivated in muscle. Suppression of autophagy alone reduced the glycogen level by 50–60%. Following ERT, muscle glycogen was reduced to normal levels, an outcome not observed in Pompe mice with genetically intact autophagy. The suppression of autophagy, which has proven successful in the Pompe model, is a novel therapeutic approach that may be useful in other diseases with disturbed autophagy.
Pompe disease; lysosomal glycogen storage; myopathy; Atg7; enzyme replacement therapy
Autophagy is a process to degrade and recycle cytoplasmic contents. Autophagy is required for survival in response to starvation, but has also been associated with cell death. How autophagy functions during cell survival in some contexts and cell death in others is unknown. Drosophila larval salivary glands undergo programmed cell death requiring autophagy genes, and are cleared in the absence of known phagocytosis. Recently, we demonstrated that Draper (Drpr), the Drosophila homolog of C. elegans engulfment receptor CED-1, is required for autophagy induction during cell death, but not during cell survival. drpr mutants fail to clear salivary glands. drpr knockdown in salivary glands prevents the induction of autophagy, and Atg1 misexpression in drpr null mutants suppresses salivary gland persistence. Surprisingly, drpr knockdown cell-autonomously prevents autophagy induction in dying salivary gland cells, but not in larval fat body cells following starvation. This is the first engulfment factor shown to function in cellular self-clearance, and the first report of a cell-death-specific autophagy regulator.
autophagy; Draper; programmed cell death; engulfment; development
Accumulating evidence strongly suggests that autophagy, which is induced by endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress in adipocytes, may play an important role in obesity-induced insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. Obesity induces ER stress in mouse adipose tissue, which correlates with reduced adiponectin levels. In 3T3-L1 adipocytes, induction of ER stress is sufficient to promote autophagy-dependent adiponectin degradation. In contrast, suppressing ER stress increases adiponectin levels in 3T3-L1 adipocytes and alleviates high fat diet-induced adiponectin downregulation in mice. The ER stress-induced adiponectin downregulation can also be suppressed by overexpression of DsbA-L, a newly identified protein involved in promoting adiponectin multimerization and stability. Taken together, our results show that ER stress-induced autophagy provides an important mechanism underlying obesity-induced adiponectin downregulation in adipocytes. In addition, increasing the expression levels of DsbA-L could be an effective approach to improve adiponectin biosynthesis and stability, thus improving insulin sensitivity in cells and in vivo.
obesity; ER stress; autophagy; adipokine; DsbA-L; adiponectin
Bcl-2 is a key dual regulator of autophagy and apoptosis, but how the level of Bcl-2 influences the cellular decision between autophagy and apoptosis is unclear. The natural BH3-mimetic (-)-gossypol preferentially induces autophagy in androgen-independent (AI) prostate cancer cells that have high levels of Bcl-2 and are resistant to apoptosis, whereas apoptosis is preferentially induced in androgen-dependent or -independent cells with low Bcl-2. (-)-Gossypol induces autophagy via blocking Bcl-2-Beclin 1 interaction at the endoplasmic reticulum (ER), together with downregulating Bcl-2, upregulating Beclin 1 and activating the autophagic pathway. Furthermore, (-)-gossypol-induced autophagy is Beclin 1- and Atg5-dependent. These results provide new insights into the mode of cell death induced by Bcl-2 inhibitors, which could facilitate the rational design of clinical trials by selecting patients who are most likely to benefit from the Bcl-2-targeted molecular therapy.
Bcl-2; (-)-gossypol; apoptosis; autophagy; Beclin 1
In a recent study, we reported in vivo evidence of early and sustained alterations of autophagy markers in a novel knock-in mouse model of Huntington disease (HD). The novel model is derived from selective breeding of HdhQ150 knock-in mice to generate mice with ∼200 CAG/polyglutamine repeats (HdhQ200). HdhQ200 knock-in mice exhibit an accelerated and more robust motor phenotype than the parent line with detectable abnormalities at 50 weeks and substantial impairments at 80 weeks. Heterozygous HdhQ200 knock-in mice accumulate htt aggregates as cytoplasmic aggregation foci (AF) as early as 9 weeks of age followed by striatal neuronal intranuclear inclusions (NIIs) by 20 weeks. By 40 weeks, striatal AF are perinuclear and immunoreactive for ubiquitin and the autophagosome marker LC3. Increased LC3-II protein expression is noted at 9 weeks and sustained throughout the disease course, and is paralleled by increased expression of p62. Early and sustained expression of autophagy-related proteins in this genetically precise mouse model of HD suggests that alteration of autophagic flux is an important and early component of neuronal response to polyglutamine expanded huntingtin.
Huntington disease; huntingtin; polyglutamine; autophagy; neurodegeneration
Mitochondria sustain damage with aging, and the resulting mitochondrial dysfunction has been implicated in a number of diseases including parkinson disease. We recently demonstrated that the E3 ubiquitin ligase Parkin, which is linked to recessive forms of parkinsonism, causes a dramatic increase in mitophagy and a change in mitochondrial distribution, following its translocation from the cytosol to mitochondria. Investigating how Parkin induces these changes may offer insight into the mechanisms that lead to the sequestration and elimination of damaged mitochondria. We report that following Parkin's translocation from the cytosol to mitochondria, Parkin (but not a pathogenic mutant) promotes the K63-linked polyubiquitination of mitochondrial substrate(s) and recruits the ubiquitin- and LC3-binding protein, p62/SQSTM1, to mitochondria. After its recruitment, p62/SQSTM1 mediates the aggregation of dysfunctional mitochondria through polymerization via its PB1 domain, in a manner analogous to its aggregation of polyubiquitinated proteins. Surprisingly and in contrast to what has been recently reported for ubiquitin-induced pexophagy and xenophagy, p62 appears to be dispensable for mitophagy. Similarly, mitochondrial-anchored ubiquitin is sufficient to recruit p62 and promote mitochondrial clustering, but does not promote mitophagy. Although VDAC1 (but not VDAC2) is ubiquitinated following mitochondrial depolarization, we find VDAC1 cannot fully account for the mitochondrial K63-linked ubiquitin immunoreactivity observed following depolarization, as it is also observed in VDAC1/3−/− mouse embryonic fibroblasts. Additionally, we find VDAC1 and VDAC3 are dispensable for the recruitment of p62, mitochondrial clustering and mitophagy. These results demonstrate that mitochondria are aggregated by p62, following its recruitment by Parkin in a VDAC1-independent manner. They also suggest that proteins other than p62 are likely required for mitophagy downstream of Parkin substrates other than VDAC1.
sequestration; PINK1; Parkinson disease; porin
autophagy; GIST; KIT; PDGFRA; imatinib mesylate; small-molecule tyrosine kinase inhibitors; autophagy inhibitors
The Atg1 Ser/Thr kinase, although now a well-established regulator of autophagy, was first identified genetically in C. elegans as a requirement for axonal elongation. However, possible connections between Atg1 functions in cellular morphogenesis and in autophagy were previously unaddressed. In the recent paper highlighted in this punctum, we reconciled these dual roles for Atg1, demonstrating a requirement for p62-mediated selective autophagy in the dynamic regulation of cell shape, in both fly and mammalian macrophages, with effects on immune cell functions. This work further strengthens the emerging importance of autophagy as a post-translational regulatory mechanism in diverse cell signaling contexts, including the cortical remodeling and function of immune cells.
cellular remodeling; cell spreading; selective autophagy; macrophage; hemocyte; drosophila; mouse; Rho1 GTPase; p62; Atg1
Autophagy has been reported to contribute to cell death, but the underlying mechanisms remain largely unknown and controversial. We have been studying oogenesis in Drosophila melanogaster as a model system to understand the interplay between autophagy and cell death. Using a novel autophagy reporter we found that autophagy occurs during developmental cell death of nurse cells in late oogenesis. Genetic inhibition of autophagy-related genes atg1, atg13 and vps34 results in late-stage egg chambers containing persisting nurse cell nuclei without fragmented DNA and attenuation of caspase-3 cleavage. We found that Drosophila inhibitor of apoptosis dBruce is degraded by autophagy and this degradation promotes DNA fragmentation and subsequent nurse cell death. These studies demonstrate that autophagic degradation of an inhibitor of apoptosis is a novel mechanism of triggering cell death.
apoptosis; autophagy; Drosophila; IAPs; nurse cells; oogenesis; programmed cell death
Purkinje cell degeneration (pcd) is a mouse mutant which is characterized by post-natal degeneration of selective cell types. The pcd mutation was mapped to a gene encoding a cytosolic carboxypeptidase-like protein (CCP), named CCP1/Nna1. Many neurons in pcd mice show increased levels of autophagy, including cell types which do not undergo neurodegeneration. These brain regions have greatly elevated levels of many intracellular peptides, suggesting that CCP1/Nna1 functions in protein turnover by degrading peptides to amino acids. We propose that the lack of CCP1/Nna1 leads to decreases in cellular levels of amino acids, which leads to elevated autophagy as a protective response to cellular amino acid starvation.
peptides; carboxypeptidase; peptidase; neurodegeneration; Purkinje cells; proteasome
Cetuximab is an epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR)-blocking antibody that is approved to treat several types of solid cancers in patients. We recently showed that cetuximab can induce autophagy in cancer cells by both inhibiting the class I phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K)/Akt/mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) pathway and activating the class III PI3K (hVps34)/beclin 1 pathway. In the current study, we investigated the relationship between cetuximab-induced autophagy and apoptosis and the biological roles of autophagy in cetuximab-mediated cancer therapy. We found that cetuximab induced autophagy in cancer cells that show strong or weak induction of apoptosis after cetuximab treatment but not in those that show only cytostatic growth inhibition. Inhibition of cetuximab-induced apoptosis by a caspase inhibitor prevented the induction of autophagy. Conversely, inhibition of cetuximab-induced autophagy by silencing the expression of autophagy-related genes (Atg) or treating the cancer cells with lysosomal inhibitors enhanced the cetuximab-induced apoptosis, suggesting that autophagy was a protective cellular response to cetuximab treatment. On the other hand, cotreatment of cancer cells with cetuximab and the mTOR inhibitor rapamycin resulted in an Atg-dependent and lysosomal inhibition-sensitive death of cancer cells that show only growth inhibition or weak apoptosis after cetuximab treatment, indicating that cell death may be achieved by activating the autophagy pathway in these cells. Together, our findings may guide the development of novel clinical strategies for sensitizing cancer cells to EGFR-targeted therapy.
EGFR; cetuximab; autophagy; apoptosis; cancer therapy
Bnip3 is a pro-apoptotic BH3-only protein which is associated with mitochondrial dysfunction and cell death. Bnip3 is also a potent inducer of autophagy in many cells. In this study, we have investigated the mechanism by which Bnip3 induces autophagy in adult cardiac myocytes. Overexpression of Bnip3 induced extensive autophagy in adult cardiac myocytes. Fluorescent microscopy studies and ultrastructural analysis revealed selective degradation of mitochondria by autophagy in myocytes overexpressing Bnip3. Oxidative stress and increased levels of intracellular Ca2+ have been reported by others to induce autophagy, but Bnip3-induced autophagy was not abolished by antioxidant treatment or the Ca2+ chelator BAPTA-AM. We also investigated the role of the mitochondrial permeability transition pore (mPTP) in Bnip3-induced autophagy. Although the mPTP has previously been implicated in the induction of autophagy and selective removal of damaged mitochondria by autophagosomes, mitochondria sequestered by autophagosomes in Bnip3-treated cardiac myocytes had not undergone permeability transition and treatment with the mPTP inhibitor cyclosporine A did not inhibit mitochondrial autophagy in cardiac myocytes. Moreover, cyclophilin D (cypD) is an essential component of the mPTP and Bnip3 induced autophagy to the same extent in embryonic fibroblasts isolated from wild-type and cypD-deficient mice. These results support a model where Bnip3 induces selective removal of the mitochondria in cardiac myocytes and that Bnip3 triggers induction of autophagy independent of Ca2+, ROS generation and mPTP opening.
Bnip3; autophagy; cardiac myocytes; mitochondria; permeability transition pore; cyclophilin D
Apoptotic defects endow tumor cells with survival advantages. Such defects allow the cellular stress response to take the path of cytoprotective autophagy, which either precedes or effectively blocks an apoptotic cascade. Inhibition of the cytoprotective autophagic response shifts the cells toward apoptosis, by interfering with an underlying molecular mechanism of cytoprotection. The current study has identified such a mechanism that is centered on the regulation of caspase-8 activity. The study took advantage of Bax-/- Hct116 cells that are TRAIL-resistant despite significant DISC processing of caspase-8, and of the availability of a caspase-8-specific antibody that exclusively detects the caspase-8 large subunit or its processed precursor. Utilizing these biological tools, we investigated the expression pattern and subcellular localization of active caspase-8 in TRAIL-mediated autophagy and in the autophagy-to-apoptosis shift upon autophagy inhibition. Our results suggest that the TRAIL-mediated autophagic response counter-balances the TRAIL-mediated apoptotic response by the continuous sequestration of the large caspase-8 subunit in autophagosomes and its subsequent elimination in lysosomes. The current findings are the first to provide evidence for regulation of caspase activity by autophagy and thus broaden the molecular basis for the observed polarization between autophagy and apoptosis.
apoptosis; autophagy; caspase-8; lysosome; TRAIL