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1.  Eat your heart out 
Autophagy  2008;4(4):416-421.
Autophagy is an important process in the heart which is responsible for the normal turnover of long lived proteins and organelles. Inhibition of autophagy leads to the accumulation of protein aggregates and dysfunctional organelles which can cause cell death. Autophagy occurs at low basal levels under normal conditions in the heart, but is rapidly upregulated in response to stress such as nutrient deprivation, hypoxia and pressure overload. Autophagy is a prominent feature of myocardial ischemia and reperfusion. Although enhanced autophagy is often seen in dying cardiac myocytes, the functional significance of autophagy under these conditions is not clear. Upregulation of autophagy has been reported to protect cardiac cells against death as well as be the cause of it. Here, we review the evidence that autophagy can have both beneficial and detrimental roles in the myocardium, and discuss potential mechanisms by which autophagy provides protection in cells.
PMCID: PMC3723414  PMID: 18253087
autophagy; ischemia; reperfusion; heart; cardiac myocytes; mitochondria; cell death; beclin 1
2.  A Method to Measure Cardiac Autophagic Flux in vivo 
Autophagy  2008;4(3):322-329.
Autophagy, a highly conserved cellular mechanism wherein various cellular components are broken down and recycled through lysosomes, has been implicated in the development of heart failure. However, tools to measure autophagic flux in vivo have been limited. Here, we tested whether monodansylcadaverine (MDC) and the lysosomotropic drug chloroquine could be used to measure autophagic flux in both in vitro and in vivo model systems. Using HL-1 cardiac-derived myocytes transfected with GFP-tagged LC3 to track changes in autophagosome formation, autophagy was stimulated by mTOR inhibitor rapamycin. Administration of chloroquine to inhibit lysosomal activity enhanced the rapamycin-induced increase in the number of cells with numerous GFP-LC3-positive autophagosomes. The chloroquine-induced increase of autophagosomes occurred in a dose-dependent manner between 1 μM and 8 μM, and reached a maximum 2 hour after treatment. Chloroquine also enhanced the accumulation of autophagosomes in cells stimulated with hydrogen peroxide, while it attenuated that induced by Bafilomycin A1, an inhibitor of V-ATPase that interferes with fusion of autophagosomes with lysosomes. The accumulation of autophagosomes was inhibited by 3-methyladenine, which is known to inhibit the early phase of the autophagic process. Using transgenic mice expressing mCherry-LC3 exposed to rapamycin for 4 hr, we observed an increase in mCherry-LC3-labeled autophagosomes in myocardium, which was further increased by concurrent administration of chloroquine, thus allowing determination of flux as a more precise measure of autophagic activity in vivo. MDC injected 1 hr before sacrifice colocalized with mCherry-LC3 puncta, validating its use as a marker of autophagosomes. This study describes a method to measure autophagic flux in vivo even in non-transgenic animals, using MDC and chloroquine.
PMCID: PMC3709927  PMID: 18216495
chloroquine; autophagy; cardiac myocytes; LC3; monodansylcadaverine
3.  Autophagy protects from hypoxic injury in C. elegans 
Autophagy  2008;4(8):1034-1041.
Macroautophagy has been implicated in a variety of pathological processes. Hypoxic/ischemic cellular injury is one such process in which autophagy has emerged as an important regulator. In general, autophagy is induced after an hypoxic/ischemic insult; however, whether the induction of autophagy promotes cell death or recovery is controversial and appears to be context dependent. We have developed C. elegans as a genetically tractable model for the study of hypoxic cell injury. Both necrosis and apoptosis are mechanisms of cell death following hypoxia in C. elegans. However, the role of autophagy in hypoxic injury in C. elegans has not been examined. Here, we found that RNAi knockdown of the C. elegans homologs of beclin 1/Atg6 (bec-1) and LC3/Atg8 (lgg-1, lgg-2), and mutation of Atg1 (unc-51) decreased animal survival after a severe hypoxic insult. Acute inhibition of autophagy by the type III phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase inhibitors, 3-methyladenine and Wortmannin, also sensitized animals to hypoxic death. Hypoxia-induced neuronal and myocyte injury as well as necrotic cellular morphology were increased by RNAi knockdown of BEC-1. Hypoxia increased the expression of a marker of autophagosomes in a bec-1-dependent manner. Finally, we found that the hypoxia hypersensitive phenotype of bec-1(RNAi) animals could be blocked by loss-of-function mutations in either the apoptosis or necrosis pathway. These results argue that inhibition of autophagy sensitizes C. elegans and its cells to hypoxic injury and that this sensitization is blocked or circumvented when either of the two major cell death mechanisms is inhibited.
PMCID: PMC3670992  PMID: 18849662
Autophagy; Cell death; Hypoxia; Apoptosis; Necrosis
4.  Regulation of autophagy by ceramide-CD95-PERK signaling 
Autophagy  2008;4(7):929-931.
The manuscripts by Park et al.1 and Zhang et al.2 were initially planned as studies to understand the regulation of cell survival in transformed cells treated with sorafenib and vorinostat, and in primary hepatocytes treated with a bile acid+MEK1/2 inhibitor. In both cell systems we discovered that the toxicity of sorafenib and vorinostat or bile acid+MEK1/2 inhibitor exposure depended on the generation of ceramide and the ligand-independent activation of the CD95 death receptor, with subsequent activation of pro-caspase 8. We noted, however, in these systems that, in parallel with death receptor–induced activation of the extrinsic pathway, CD95 signaling also promoted increased phosphorylation of PKR-like endoplasmic reticulum kinase (PERK) and eIF2α, increased expression of ATG5, and increased processing of LC3 and vesicularization of a GFP-LC3 construct. The knockdown of ATG5 expression blocked GFP-LC3 vesicularization and enhanced cell killing. Thus ceramide-CD95 signaling promoted cell death via activation of pro-caspase 8 and cell survival via autophagy. PERK was shown to signal in a switch-hitting fashion; PERK promoted CD95-DISC formation and an eIF2α-dependent reduction in c-FLIP-s levels that were essential for cell killing to proceed, but in parallel it also promoted autophagy that was protective. The death receptor-induced apoptosis and autophagy occur proximal to the receptor rather than the mitochondrion, and the relative flow of death receptor signaling into either pathway may determine cell fate. Finally, death receptor induced apoptosis and autophagy could be potential targets for therapeutic intervention.
PMCID: PMC3292039  PMID: 18719356
Vorinostat; Sorafenib; bile acid; CD95; autophagy; ceramide; cell death; ASMase
5.  AACR Annual Meeting 2008 
Autophagy  2008;4(5):731-733.
The 2008 American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Annual Meeting was held in San Diego, CA, April 12–16, 2008 (http://www.aacr.org/home/scientists/meetings--workshops/annual-meeting-2008.aspx). More than 17,000 scientists from 60 countries participated in this meeting that was organized by AACR, the oldest and largest organization in the world focused on cancer research. The scientific presentations included more than 6,000 abstracts and 500 invited talks on new and significant discoveries in basic, clinical, and translational cancer research. Autophagy, as pertaining to tumorigenesis and response to anticancer therapies, was undoubtedly a “hot topic” in this meeting. An educational session, a forum, a minisymposium and several other talks dispersed in different sessions had a strong focus on autophagy. All autophagy-related presentations were very well attended and stimulated lively discussions, clearly indicating that the scientific community is greatly interested in this rapidly-progressing area of research.
PMCID: PMC3155289  PMID: 18536528
autophagy; tumorigenesis; cancer research; cancer therapy; protein quality control; cell survival; p62
6.  Autophagy upregulation by inhibitors of caspase-3 and mTOR enhances radiotherapy in a mouse model of lung cancer 
Autophagy  2008;4(5):659-668.
Autophagy has been reported to be increased in irradiated cancer cells resistant to various apoptotic stimuli. We therefore hypothesized that induction of autophagy via mTOR inhibition could enhance radiosensitization in apoptosis-inhibited H460 lung cancer cells in vitro and in a lung cancer xenograft model. To test this hypothesis, combinations of Z-DEVD (caspase-3 inhibitor), RAD001 (mTOR inhibitor) and irradiation were tested in cell and mouse models. The combination of Z-DEVD and RAD001 more potently radiosensitized H460 cells than individual treatment alone. The enhancement in radiation response was not only evident in clonogenic survival assays, but also was demonstrated through markedly reduced tumor growth, cellular proliferation (Ki67 staining), apoptosis (TUNEL staining) and angiogenesis (vWF staining) in vivo. Additionally, upregulation of autophagy as measured by increased GFP-LC3-tagged autophagosome formation accompanied the noted radiosensitization in vitro and in vivo. The greatest induction of autophagy and associated radiation toxicity was exhibited in the tri-modality treatment group. Autophagy marker, LC3-II, was reduced by 3-methyladenine (3-MA), a known inhibitor of autophagy, but further increased by the addition of lysosomal protease inhibitors (pepstatin A and E64d), demonstrating that there is autophagic induction through type III PI3 kinase during the combined therapy. Knocking down of ATG5 and beclin-1, two essential autophagic molecules, resulted in radiation resistance of lung cancer cells. Our report suggests that combined inhibition of apoptosis and mTOR during radiotherapy is a potential therapeutic strategy to enhance radiation therapy in patients with non-small cell lung cancer.
PMCID: PMC3073356  PMID: 18424912
radiotherapy; autophagy; lung cancer; caspase; mTOR
7.  New insights into autophagy using a multiple knockout strain 
Autophagy  2008;4(8):1073-1075.
Not only is autophagy the major intracellular pathway for degradation and recycling of long-lived proteins and organelles, it is also involved in both the pathogenesis and prevention of many human diseases. Much progress has been made on the identification and characterization of AuTophaGy-related (ATG) genes, in yeast and in mammals. However, our understanding of the molecular mechanisms of autophagy remains quite limited, far from enough to harness autophagy for therapeutic applications. To better understand the molecular mechanisms, we took a unique and novel approach to study autophagy in yeast. We generated a multiple knockout Saccharomyces cerevisiae strain with 24 ATG genes deleted, and determined the minimum requirements for different aspects of autophagy. Our data also provided us with new insights into autophagy, different from those obtained from in vitro analyses. In this addendum, we briefly discuss our findings and consider fields where this multiple knockout strain can be of potential use.
PMCID: PMC2933662  PMID: 18971623
conjugation; in vivo reconstitution; lysosome; vacuole; yeast
8.  Quantitation of autophagy by luciferase release assay 
Autophagy  2008;4(6):801-806.
Autophagy is a cellular process that has been defined and analyzed almost entirely by qualitative measures. In no small part, this is attributable to the absence of robust quantitative assays that can easily and reliably permit the progress of key steps in autophagy to be assessed. We have recently developed a cell-based assay that specifically measures proteolytic cleavage of a tripartite sensor protein by the autophagy protease ATG4B. Activation of ATG4B results in release of Gaussia luciferase from cells that can be non-invasively harvested from cellular supernatants. Here, we compare this technique to existing methods and propose that this type of assay will be suitable for genome-wide functional screens and in vivo analysis of autophagy.
PMCID: PMC2910585  PMID: 18641457
autophagy; assay; gaussia; luciferase; secretion; screen; in vivo
9.  Selective Mitochondrial Autophagy during Erythroid Maturation 
Autophagy  2008;4(7):926-928.
Accumulating evidence suggests that autophagy can be selective in the clearance of organelles in yeast and in mammalian cells. We have observed that the sequestration of mitochondria by autophagosomes was defective in reticulocytes in the absence of Nix. Nixis required for the dissipation of mitochondrial membrane potential (ΔΨm) during erythroid maturation. Moreover, pharmacological agents that induce the loss of ΔΨm can restore the sequestration of mitochondria by autophagosomes and promote mitochondrial clearance in Nix−/− erythroid cells. Our data suggest that mitochondrial depolarization induces recognition and sequestration of mitochondria by autophagosomes. Elucidating the mechanisms underlying selective mitochondrial autophagy not only will help us to understand the mechanisms for erythroid maturation, but also may provide insights into mitochondrial quality control by autophagy in the protection against aging, cancer, and neurodegenerative diseases.
PMCID: PMC2900926  PMID: 18716457
Nix; autophagy; erythroid maturation; Bcl-2; BH3; mitochondrial membrane potential; mitochondrial quality control
10.  Beyond autophagy 
Autophagy  2008;4(6):817-820.
Autophagy is a lysosome-directed membrane trafficking event for the degradation of cytoplasmic components, including organelles. The past few years have seen a great advance in our understanding of the cellular machinery of autophagosome biogenesis, the hallmark of autophagy. However, our global understanding of autophagosome maturity remains relatively poor and fragmented. The topological similarity of autophagosome and endosome delivery to lysosomes suggests that autophagic and endosomal maturation may have evolved to share associated machinery to promote the lysosomal delivery of their cargoes. We have recently discovered that UVRAG, originally identified as a Beclin 1-binding autophagy protein, appears to be an important factor in autophagic and endosomal trafficking through its interaction with the class C Vps tethering complex. Given the ability of UVRAG to bind Beclin 1 and the class C Vps complex in a genetically and functionally separable manner, it may serve as an important regulator for the spatial and/or temporal control of diverse cellular trafficking events. As more non-autophagic functions of UVRAG are unveiled, our understanding of seemingly different cellular processes may move a step further.
PMCID: PMC2878715  PMID: 18612260
UVRAG; the class C Vps complex; autophagy; autophagosome maturation; membrane trafficking
11.  Tumor suppression by autophagy through the management of metabolic stress 
Autophagy  2008;4(5):563-566.
Autophagy plays a critical protective role maintaining energy homeostasis and protein and organelle quality control. These functions are particularly important in times of metabolic stress and in cells with high energy demand such as cancer cells. In emerging cancer cells, autophagy defect may cause failure of energy homeostasis and protein and organelle quality control, leading to the accumulation of cellular damage in metabolic stress. Some manifestations of this damage, such as activation of the DNA damage response and generation of genome instability may promote tumor initiation and drive cell-autonomous tumor progression. In addition, in solid tumors, autophagy localizes to regions that are metabolically stressed. Defects in autophagy impair the survival of tumor cells in these areas, which is associated with increased cell death and inflammation. The cytokine response from inflammation may promote tumor growth and accelerate cell non-autonomous tumor progression. The overreaching theme is that autophagy protects cells from damage accumulation under conditions of metabolic stress allowing efficient tolerance and recovery from stress, and that this is a critical and novel tumor suppression mechanism. The challenge now is to define the precise aspects of autophagy, including energy homeostasis and protein and organelle turnover, that are required for the proper management of metabolic stress that suppress tumorigenesis. Furthermore, we need to be able to identify human tumors with deficient autophagy, and to develop rational cancer therapies that take advantage of the altered metabolic state and stress responses inherent to this autophagy defect.
PMCID: PMC2857579  PMID: 18326941
autophagy; beclin1; cancer
12.  Entering the lysosome through a transient gate by chaperone-mediated autophagy 
Autophagy  2008;4(8):1101-1103.
A subset of cytosolic proteins can be selectively degraded in lysosomes through chaperone-mediated autophagy. The lysosomal-membrane protein type 2A (LAMP-2A) acts as the receptor for the substrates of chaperone-mediated autophagy (CMA), which should undergo unfolding before crossing the lysosomal membrane and reaching the lumen for degradation. Translocation of substrates is assisted by chaperones on both sides of the membrane, but the actual steps involved in this process and the characteristics of the translocation complex were, for the most part, unknown. We have now found that rather than a stable translocon at the lysosomal membrane, CMA substrates bind to monomers of LAMP-2A driving the organization of this protein into a high molecular weight multimeric complex that mediates translocation. Assembly and disassembly of LAMP-2A into and from this complex is dynamic and it is regulated by hsc70 and hsp90, the two lysosomal chaperones related to CMA. This work thus unveils a unique mechanism of protein translocation across the lysosomal membrane, which involves only transient discontinuity of the membrane. The possible advantages of this transitory lysosomal translocon are discussed in light of the unique properties of the lysosomal compartment.
PMCID: PMC2832301  PMID: 18927485
autophagy; chaperones; membrane dynamics; membrane proteins; protein translocation
13.  Autophagy: An overlooked mechanism of HIV-1 pathogenesis and neuroAIDS? 
Autophagy  2008;4(5):704-706.
Human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) establishes a persistent infection characterized by progressive depletion of CD4+ lymphocytes and immunosuppression. Although extensive research has examined the importance of apoptosis as a cause of cell death associated with HIV-1 infection, the role of autophagy has been largely ignored. Our laboratory has examined the autophagic process in HIV-1-infected cells. Following infection of human peripheral blood CD4+ T-cells or U937 cells with HIV-1 for 48 hours, the autophagy proteins Beclin 1 and LC3-II were found to be markedly decreased. Beclin 1 mRNA expression and autophagosomes were also reduced in HIV-1 infected cells. Thus, our data indicate that HIV-1 infection inhibits autophagy in infected cells in contrast to the previously described induction of autophagy by gp120 in uninfected bystander cells. It is likely that HIV-1 has evolved this mechanism as part of an elaborate attempt to evade the immune system while promoting its own replication. We believe that autophagy is an overlooked mechanism in HIV-1 pathogenesis and plays a particularly important role in the early cognitive impairment and dementia often associated with advanced AIDS. A model is presented that describes the potential role of autophagy in NeuroAIDS.
PMCID: PMC2808997  PMID: 18424919
autophagy; HIV-1; neuroAIDS; HIV-associated dementia; HIV pathogenesis; beclin 1; AIDS; HIV-related cognitive impairment
14.  Targeted therapy for the loss of von hippel-lindau in renal cell carcinoma 
Autophagy  2008;4(7):944-946.
Radiation and conventional cytotoxic chemotherapies are ineffective in treating renal cancer. Approximately 75 percent of renal cell carcinoma (RCC) is associated with an inactivation of the tumor suppressor gene von Hippel-Lindau (VHL). We exploited the possibility of targeting VHL-deficient RCC through synthetic lethality using a high-throughput screening approach. In this screen, STF-62247 was identified to be selectively toxic and growth inhibitory to renal cells lacking VHL. We recently demonstrated that the cytotoxicity of STF-62247 is due to dysregulated autophagy. Furthermore, the reduction of protein levels of essential autophagy pathway components such as Atg5, Atg7 and Atg9 reduces sensitivity of VHL-deficient cells to killing by STF-62247. Loss of proteins involved in Golgi trafficking sensitized RCC with wild-type VHL to killing by STF-62247, indicating a potential role for these proteins as a target of the compound. Our study supports the concept of using synthetic lethality to selectively kill VHL-deficient cells that represents a new type of targeted therapy for the treatment of RCC.
PMCID: PMC2803726  PMID: 18769110
renal cell carcinoma; von Hippel-Lindau; autophagy; LC3; cell death; autophagosomes; targeted therapy; kidney cancer
15.  The heart of autophagy: Deconstructing cardiac proteotoxicity 
Autophagy  2008;4(7):932-935.
The heart is capable of robust structural remodeling, sometimes improving performance and sometimes leading to failure. Recent studies have uncovered a critical role for autophagy in disease-related remodeling of the cardiomyocyte. We have shown previously that hemodynamic load elicits a maladaptive autophagic response in cardiomyocytes which contributes to disease progression. In a recent study, we went on to demonstrate that protein aggregation is a proximal event triggering autophagic clearance mechanisms. The ubiquitin-proteasome-dependent pathways of protein clearance are similarly activated in parallel with processing of stress-induced protein aggregates into aggresomes and clearance through autophagy. These findings in the setting of pressure overload contrast with protein aggregation occurring in a model of protein chaperone malfunction in myocytes, where activation of autophagy is beneficial, antagonizing disease progression. Our findings situate heart disease stemming from environmental stress in the category of proteinopathy and raise important new questions regarding molecular events that elicit adaptive and maladaptive autophagy.
PMCID: PMC2789566  PMID: 18769158
cardiac hypertrophy; heart failure; cardiomyocyte; cardiac remodeling
16.  Autophagy functions in programmed cell death 
Autophagy  2008;4(3):359-360.
Autophagic cell death is a prominent morphological form of cell death that occurs in diverse animals. Autophagosomes are abundant during autophagic cell death, yet the functional role of autophagy in cell death has been enigmatic. We find that autophagy and the Atg genes are required for autophagic cell death of Drosophila salivary glands. Although caspases are present in dying salivary glands, autophagy is required for complete cell degradation. Further, induction of high levels of autophagy results in caspase-independent autophagic cell death. Our results provide the first in vivo evidence that autophagy and the Atg genes are required for autophagic cell death and confirm that autophagic cell death is a physiological death program that occurs during development.
PMCID: PMC2782713  PMID: 18212526
autophagy; cell death; Atg; caspase; Drosophila
17.  Mitochondrially localized ERK2 regulates mitophagy and autophagic cell stress 
Autophagy  2008;4(6):770-782.
Degenerating neurons of Parkinson’s disease (PD) patient brains exhibit granules of phosphorylated extracellular signal-regulated protein kinase 1/2 (ERK1/2) that localize to autophagocytosed mito-chondria. Here we show that 6-hydroxydopamine (6-OHDA) elicits activity-related localization of ERK1/2 in mitochondria of SH-SY5Y cells, and these events coincide with induction of autophagy and precede mitochondrial degradation. Transient transfection of wild-type (WT) ERK2 or constitutively active MAPK/ERK Kinase 2 (MEK2-CA) was sufficient to induce mitophagy to a degree comparable with that elicited by 6-OHDA, while constitutively active ERK2 (ERK2-CA) had a greater effect. We developed green fluorescent protein (GFP) fusion constructs of WT, CA, and kinase-deficient (KD) ERK2 to study the role of ERK2 localization in regulating mitophagy and cell death. Under basal conditions, cells transfected with GFP-ERK2-WT or GFP-ERK2-CA, but not GFP-ERK2-KD, displayed discrete cytoplasmic ERK2 granules of which a significant fraction colocalized with mitochondria and markers of autophago-lysosomal maturation. The colocalizing GFP-ERK2/mitochondria granules are further increased by 6-OHDA and undergo autophagic degradation, as bafilomycin-A, an inhibitor of autolysosomal degradation, robustly increased their detection. Interestingly, increasing ERK2-WT or ERK2-CA expression was sufficient to promote comparable levels of macroautophagy as assessed by analysis of the autophagy marker microtubule-associated protein 1 light chain 3 (LC3). In contrast, the level of mitophagy was more tightly correlated with ERK activity levels, potentially explained by the greater localization of ERK2-CA to mitochondria compared to ERK2-WT. These data indicate that mitochondrial localization of ERK2 activity is sufficient to recapitulate the effects of 6-OHDA on mitophagy and autophagic cell death.
PMCID: PMC2574804  PMID: 18594198
autophagy; oxidative stress; mitochondria; mitogen activated protein kinases; 6-hydroxydopamine; Parkinson’s disease
18.  Protein Misfolding and Cardiac Disease 
Autophagy  2008;4(6):821-823.
Numerous neurodegenerative diseases are characterized by the accumulation of misfolded amyloidogenic proteins. Recent data indicate that a soluble pre-amyloid oligomer (PAO) may be the toxic entity in these diseases and the visible amyloid plaques, rather than causing the disease, may simply mark the terminal pathology. In prior studies, we observed PAO in the cardiomyocytes of many human heart failure samples. To test the hypothesis that cardiomyocyte-restricted expression of a known PAO is sufficient to cause heart failure, transgenic mice were created expressing polyglutamine repeats of 83 (PQ83) or 19 (PQ19).Long PQ repeats (>50) form PAOs and result in neurotoxicity in Huntington’s disease, whereas shorter PQ repeats are benign. PQ83 expression caused the intracellular accumulation of PAOs and aggregates leading to cardiomyocyte death and heart failure. Evidence of increased autophagy and necrosis accompanied the PQ83 cardiomyocyte pathology. The data confirm that protein misfolding resulting in intracellular PAO accumulation is sufficient to cause cardiomyocyte death and heart failure.
PMCID: PMC2559970  PMID: 18612262
Protein misfolding; amyloid oligomer; heart disease; autophagy; heart; polyglutamine
19.  Perturbation of autophagic pathway by hepatitis C virus 
Autophagy  2008;4(6):830-831.
Autophagy removes long-lived proteins and damaged organelles and is important for maintaining cellular homeostasis. It can also serve in innate immunity to remove intracellular pathogens. As such, viruses have evolved different mechanisms to subvert this innate immune response. We have recently demonstrated that hepatitis C virus (HCV) can also suppress autophagic protein degradation by suppressing the fusion between autophagosomes and lysosomes. This suppression causes the accumulation of autophagosomes and enhances HCV RNA replication.1 Our further analysis indicated that the induction of autophagosomes by HCV is dependent on the unfolded protein response (UPR). Our studies thus delineate a molecular pathway by which HCV induces autophagosomes. The prolonged perturbation of the autophagic pathway by HCV likely plays an important role in HCV pathogenesis.
PMCID: PMC2574555  PMID: 18635950
hepatitis C virus; autophagy; autophagosomes; ER stress; unfolded protein response; HCV RNA replication
20.  Regulation of ER stress-induced macroautophagy by protein kinase C 
Autophagy  2008;4(6):841-843.
The endoplasmic reticulum (ER) is the primary site for folding and quality control for proteins destined to the cell surface and intracellular organelles. A variety of cellular insults alter ER homeostasis to disrupt protein folding, cause the accumulation of misfolded proteins, and activate an autophagic response. However, the molecular signaling pathways required for ER stress-induced autophagy are largely unknown. Recently, we discovered that a novel-type protein kinase C family member (PKCθ) is required for ER stress-induced autophagy. We show that ER stress, in a Ca2+-dependent manner, induces PKCθ phosphorylation within the activation loop and localization with LC3-II in punctate cytoplasmic structures. Pharmacological inhibition, siRNA-mediated knockdown, or transdominant-negative mutant expression of PKCθ block the ER stress-induced autophagic response. PKCθ activation is not required for autophagy induced by amino acid starvation, and PKCθ activation in response to ER stress does not require either the mTOR kinase or the unfolded protein response signaling pathways. Herein, we review and discuss the significance of these findings with respect to regulation of autophagy in response to ER stress.
PMCID: PMC2770887  PMID: 18670192
unfolded protein response; protein kinase Cθ; calcium; autophagy; endoplasmic reticulum; autophagosome
21.  Molecular basis of the regulation of Beclin 1-dependent autophagy by the γ-herpesvirus 68 Bcl-2 homolog M11 
Autophagy  2008;4(8):989-997.
γ-Herpesviruses (γHVs), including important human pathogens such as Epstein Barr virus, Kaposi’s sarcoma-associated HV, and the murine γHV68, encode homologs of the antiapoptotic, cellular Bcl-2 (cBcl-2) to promote viral replication and pathogenesis. The precise molecular details by which these proteins function in viral infection are poorly understood. Autophagy, a lysosomal degradation pathway, is inhibited by the interaction of cBcl-2s with a key autophagy effector, Beclin 1, and can also be inhibited by γHV Bcl-2s. Here we investigate the γHV68 M11-Beclin 1 interaction in atomic detail, using biochemical and structural approaches. We show that the Beclin 1 BH3 domain is the primary determinant of binding to M11 and other Bcl-2s, and this domain binds in a hydrophobic groove on M11, reminiscent of the binding of different BH3 domains to other Bcl-2s. Unexpectedly, regions outside of, but contiguous with, the Beclin 1 BH3 domain also contribute to this interaction. We find that M11 binds to Beclin 1 more strongly than do KSHV Bcl-2 or cBcl-2. Further, the differential affinity of M11 for different BH3 domains is caused by subtle, yet significant, variations in the atomic details of each interaction. Consistent with our structural analysis, we find that Beclin 1 residues L116 and F123, and M11 residue pairs G86 + R87 and Y60 + L74, are required for M11 to bind to Beclin 1 and downregulate autophagy. Thus, our results suggest that M11 inhibits autophagy through a mechanism that involves the binding of the Beclin 1 BH3 domain in the M11 hydrophobic surface groove.
PMCID: PMC2755179  PMID: 18797192
γ-herpesvirus; Beclin 1; Bcl-2; viral Bcl-2; autophagy; apoptosis
22.  Decreased Neuronal Autophagy in HIV Dementia: A Mechanism of Indirect Neurotoxicity 
Autophagy  2008;4(7):963-966.
Many recent studies indicate that dysregulation of autophagy is a common feature of many neurodegenerative diseases. The HIV-1-associated neurological disorder is an acquired cognitive and motor disease that includes a severe neurodegenerative dementia. We find that the neurodegeneration seen in the brain in HIV-1 infection is associated with an inhibition of neuronal autophagy, leading to neuronal demise. Neurons treated with supernatants from SIV-infected microglia develop a decrease in autophagy-inducing proteins, a decrease in neuronal autophagy vesicles, and an increase in sequestosome-1/p62. Examination of brains from HIV-infected individuals and SIV-infected monkeys reveals signs of autophagy dysregulation, associated, respectively, with dementia and encephalitis. Excitotoxic and inflammatory factors could inhibit neuronal autophagy, and stimulation of autophagy with rapamycin prevents such effects. Here we amplify on these findings, and propose that in the setting of HIV-infection, the decreased neuronal autophagy sensitizes cells to pro-apoptotic and other damaging mechanisms, leading to neuronal dysfunction and death. Hence, new therapeutic approaches aimed at boosting neuronal autophagy are conceivable to treat those suffering from the neurological complications of HIV.
PMCID: PMC2665179  PMID: 18772620
autophagy; HIV-1 associated neurocognitive disorder; neuron; neurodegeneration; microglia; dementia; AIDS; SIV; NMDA
23.  Autophagy Following Heat Stress: The Role of Aging and Protein Nitration 
Autophagy  2008;4(7):936-939.
Stress can originate from a variety of sources (e.g. physical, chemical, etc.) and cause protein denaturation, DNA damage, and possibly death. In an effort to prevent such deleterious consequences, most organisms possess one or more ways to counteract or even prevent the harmful effect(s) from a given stressor. Such compensation by an organism is known as a stress response; this involves inhibition of housekeeping genes and subsequent activation of genes associated with the stress response.1 One of the most widely studied groups of stress response genes is a family of molecular chaperones known as heat shock proteins (HSPs). Work from our laboratory agrees with many other studies showing an age-related decline in stress-induced synthesis of HSPs.2 A decline in the availability and/or function of HSPs with age can lead to accumulation of damaged proteins, which in turn damages cells. Recently, our laboratory found a significant increase in mitochondrial damage as well as evidence of increased autophagy in rat hepatocytes following heat stress.3 These results, along with findings of increased protein nitration with age, suggest a major role for reactive nitrogen species (RNS) in both the decline in HSP induction and increased hepatocyte pathology observed in old rats following heat stress.
PMCID: PMC2577755  PMID: 18758235
mitochondria; 3-nitrotyrosine; autophagy; heat stress; oxidative stress; nitric oxide
24.  Eating on the fly 
Autophagy  2008;4(5):557-562.
Significant progress has been made over recent years in defining the normal progression and regulation of autophagy, particularly in cultured mammalian cells and yeast model systems. However, apart from a few notable exceptions, our understanding of the physiological roles of autophagy has lagged behind these advances, and identification of components and features of autophagy unique to higher eukaryotes also remains a challenge. In this review we describe recent insights into the roles and control mechanisms of autophagy gained from in vivo studies in Drosophila. We focus on potential roles of autophagy in controlling cell growth and death, and describe how the regulation of autophagy has evolved to include metazoan-specific signaling pathways. We discuss genetic screening approaches that are being used to identify novel regulators and effectors of autophagy, and speculate about areas of research in this system likely to bear fruit in future studies.
PMCID: PMC2749667  PMID: 18319640
autophagy; Drosophila; apoptosis; target of rapamycin (TOR); cell growth; neurodegeneration
25.  Bcl-2 family members 
Autophagy  2008;4(5):600-606.
The essential autophagy protein and haplo-insufficient tumor suppressor, Beclin 1, interacts with several cofactors (Ambra1, Bif-1, UVRAG) to activate the lipid kinase Vps34, thereby inducing autophagy. In normal conditions, Beclin 1 is bound to and inhibited by Bcl-2 or the Bcl-2 homolog Bcl-XL. This interaction involves a Bcl-2 homology 3 (BH3) domain in Beclin 1 and the BH3 binding groove of Bcl-2/Bcl-XL. Other proteins containing BH3 domains, called BH3-only proteins, can competitively disrupt the interaction between Beclin 1 and Bcl-2/Bcl-XL to induce autophagy. Nutrient starvation, which is a potent physiologic inducer of autophagy, can stimulate the dissociation of Beclin 1 from its inhibitors, either by activating BH3-only proteins (such as Bad) or by posttranslational modifications of Bcl-2 (such as phosphorylation) that may reduce its affinity for Beclin 1 and BH3-only proteins. Thus, anti-apoptotic Bcl-2 family members and pro-apoptotic BH3-only proteins may participate in the inhibition and induction of autophagy, respectively. This hitherto neglected crosstalk between the core machineries regulating autophagy and apoptosis may redefine the role of Bcl-2 family proteins in oncogenesis and tumor progression.
PMCID: PMC2749577  PMID: 18497563
Bcl-2; Bcl-xL; BH3-only proteins; Beclin 1; autophagy; apoptosis

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