bims-auttor Biomed News
on Autophagy and mTOR
Issue of 2019‒10‒27
thirteen papers selected by
Viktor Korolchuk, Newcastle University

  1. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2019 Oct 21. pii: 201915905. [Epub ahead of print]
      The reactivation of quiescent cells to proliferate is fundamental to tissue repair and homeostasis in the body. Often referred to as the G0 state, quiescence is, however, not a uniform state but with graded depth. Shallow quiescent cells exhibit a higher tendency to revert to proliferation than deep quiescent cells, while deep quiescent cells are still fully reversible under physiological conditions, distinct from senescent cells. Cellular mechanisms underlying the control of quiescence depth and the connection between quiescence and senescence are poorly characterized, representing a missing link in our understanding of tissue homeostasis and regeneration. Here we measured transcriptome changes as rat embryonic fibroblasts moved from shallow to deep quiescence over time in the absence of growth signals. We found that lysosomal gene expression was significantly up-regulated in deep quiescence, and partially compensated for gradually reduced autophagy flux. Reducing lysosomal function drove cells progressively deeper into quiescence and eventually into a senescence-like irreversibly arrested state; increasing lysosomal function, by lowering oxidative stress, progressively pushed cells into shallower quiescence. That is, lysosomal function modulates graded quiescence depth between proliferation and senescence as a dimmer switch. Finally, we found that a gene-expression signature developed by comparing deep and shallow quiescence in fibroblasts can correctly classify a wide array of senescent and aging cell types in vitro and in vivo, suggesting that while quiescence is generally considered to protect cells from irreversible arrest of senescence, quiescence deepening likely represents a common transition path from cell proliferation to senescence, related to aging.
    Keywords:  aging; dormancy; lysosome; quiescence; senescence
  2. J Cell Sci. 2019 Oct 24. pii: jcs.235002. [Epub ahead of print]
      Autophagy is initiated by the formation of phagophore assembly sites (PAS), the precursors of autophagosomes. In mammals, PAS form throughout the cytosol in specialized subdomains of the endoplasmic reticulum (ER). In yeast, the PAS is also generated close to the ER, but always in the vicinity of the vacuole. How the PAS is anchored to the vacuole and the functional significance of this localization are unknown. Here, we investigated the role of the PAS-vacuole connection for bulk autophagy in yeast. We show that Vac8 constitutes a vacuolar tether that stably anchors the PAS to the vacuole throughout autophagosome biogenesis via the PAS component Atg13. S. cerevisiae lacking Vac8 show inefficient autophagosome-vacuole fusion, and form fewer and smaller autophagosomes that often localize away from the vacuole. Thus, the stable PAS-vacuole connection established by Vac8 creates a confined space for autophagosome biogenesis between the ER and the vacuole and allows spatial coordination of autophagosome formation and autophagosome-vacuole fusion. These findings reveal that the spatial regulation of autophagosome formation at the vacuole is required for efficient bulk autophagy.
    Keywords:  Autophagosome; Autophagy; PAS; Vac8
  3. Cell Signal. 2019 Oct 19. pii: S0898-6568(19)30238-4. [Epub ahead of print] 109442
      Most neurodegenerative diseases show a disruption of autophagic function and display abnormal accumulation of toxic protein aggregates that promotes cellular stress and death. Therefore, induction of autophagy has been proposed as a reasonable strategy to help neurons clear abnormal protein aggregates and survive. The kinase mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) is a major regulator of the autophagic process and is regulated by starvation, growth factors, and cellular stressors. The phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K)/ protein kinase B (Akt) pathway, which promotes cellular survival, is the main modulator upstream of mTOR, and alterations in this pathway are common in neurodegenerative diseases, e.g. Alzheimer's disease (AD) and Parkinson's disease (PD). In the present work we revised mammalian target of rapamycin complex 1 (mTORC1) pathway and mTORC2 as a complementary an important element in mTORC1 signaling. In addition, we revised the extracellular signal regulated kinase (ERK) pathway, which has become relevant in the regulation of the autophagic process and cellular survival through mTORC2 signaling. Finally, we summarize novel compounds that promote autophagy and neuronal protection in the last five years.
    Keywords:  Alzheimer's disease; Apelin; Autophagy; Beclin-1; Cubeben; Curcumin; Mammalian target of rapamycin complex; Mitogen activated protein kinases; Neurodegeneration; Parkinson's disease; Phosphatidylinositol-3-kinase
  4. Nat Commun. 2019 Oct 23. 10(1): 4827
      Macroautophagy, a key player in protein quality control, is proposed to be systematically impaired in distinct tissues and causes coordinated disruption of protein homeostasis and ageing throughout the body. Although tissue-specific changes in autophagy and ageing have been extensively explored, the mechanism underlying the inter-tissue regulation of autophagy with ageing is poorly understood. Here, we show that a secreted microRNA, mir-83/miR-29, controls the age-related decrease in macroautophagy across tissues in Caenorhabditis elegans. Upregulated in the intestine by hsf-1/HSF1 with age, mir-83 is transported across tissues potentially via extracellular vesicles and disrupts macroautophagy by suppressing CUP-5/MCOLN, a vital autophagy regulator, autonomously in the intestine as well as non-autonomously in body wall muscle. Mutating mir-83 thereby enhances macroautophagy in different tissues, promoting protein homeostasis and longevity. These findings thus identify a microRNA-based mechanism to coordinate the decreasing macroautophagy in various tissues with age.
  5. Cell Discov. 2019 ;5 42
      Autophagy is critical for maintaining cellular homeostasis during times of stress, and is thought to play important roles in both tumorigenesis and tumor cell survival. Formation of autophagosomes, which mediate delivery of cytoplasmic cargo to lysosomes, requires multiple autophagy-related (ATG) protein complexes, including the ATG12-ATG5-ATG16L1 complex. Herein, we report that a molecular ATG5 "conjugation switch", comprised of competing ATG12 and ubiquitin conjugation reactions, integrates ATG12-ATG5-ATG16L1 complex assembly with protein quality control of its otherwise highly unstable subunits. This conjugation switch is tightly regulated by ATG16L1, which binds to free ATG5 and mutually protects both proteins from ubiquitin conjugation and proteasomal degradation, thereby instead promoting the irreversible conjugation of ATG12 to ATG5. The resulting ATG12-ATG5 conjugate, in turn, displays enhanced affinity for ATG16L1 and thus fully stabilizes the ATG12-ATG5-ATG16L1 complex. Most importantly, we find in multiple tumor types that ATG5 somatic mutations and alternative mRNA splicing specifically disrupt the ATG16L1-binding pocket in ATG5 and impair the essential ATG5-ATG16L1 interactions that are initially required for ATG12-ATG5 conjugation. Finally, we provide evidence that ATG16L2, which is overexpressed in several cancers relative to ATG16L1, hijacks the conjugation switch by competing with ATG16L1 for binding to ATG5. While ATG16L2 stabilizes ATG5 and enables ATG12-ATG5 conjugation, this endogenous dominant-negative inhibitor simultaneously displaces ATG16L1, resulting in its proteasomal degradation and a block in autophagy. Thus, collectively, our findings provide novel insights into ATG12-ATG5-ATG16L1 complex assembly and reveal multiple mechanisms wherein dysregulation of the ATG5 conjugation switch inhibits autophagy.
    Keywords:  Autophagosomes; Macroautophagy; Protein quality control; Ubiquitylation
  6. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2019 Oct 21. pii: 201913509. [Epub ahead of print]
      Contacts between the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) and other membranes are hot spots for protein-mediated lipid transport between the 2 adjacent bilayers. Compiling a molecular inventory of lipid transport proteins present at these sites is a premise to the elucidation of their function. Here we show that PDZD8, an intrinsic membrane protein of the ER with a lipid transport module of the SMP domain family, concentrates at contacts between the ER and late endosomes/lysosomes, where it interacts with GTP-Rab7. These findings suggest that PDZD8 may cooperate with other proteins that function at the ER-endo/lysosome interface in coordinating endocytic flow with lipid transport between endocytic membranes and the ER.
    Keywords:  SMP domain; lipid-transfer protein; membrane contact sites
  7. J Biol Chem. 2019 Oct 22. pii: jbc.RA119.010101. [Epub ahead of print]
      The evolutionarily conserved TOR complex 1 (TORC1) activates cell growth and proliferation in response to nutritional signals. In the fission yeast Schizosaccharomyces pombe, TORC1 is essential for vegetative growth, and its activity is regulated in response to nitrogen quantity and quality. Yet, how TORC1 senses nitrogen is poorly understood. Rapamycin, a specific TOR inhibitor, inhibits growth in S. pombe only under conditions in which the activity of TORC1 is compromised. In a genetic screen for rapamycin-sensitive mutations, we isolated caa1-1, a loss-of-function mutation of the cytosolic form of aspartate aminotransferase (Caa1). We demonstrate that loss of caa1 + partially mimics loss of TORC1 activity and that Caa1 is required for full TORC1 activity. Disruption of caa1 + resulted in aspartate auxotrophy, a finding that prompted us to assess the role of aspartate in TORC1 activation. We found that the amino acids glutamine, asparagine, arginine, aspartate, and serine activate TORC1 most efficiently following nitrogen starvation. The glutamine synthetase inhibitor L-methionine sulfoximine (MSX) abolished the ability of asparagine, arginine, aspartate, or serine, but not that of glutamine, to induce TORC1 activity, consistent with a central role for glutamine in activating TORC1. Neither addition of aspartate nor addition of glutamine restored TORC1 activity in caa1-deleted cells or in cells carrying a Caa1 variant with a catalytic-site substitution, suggesting that the catalytic activity of Caa1 is required for TORC1 activation. Taken together, our results reveal the contribution of the key metabolic enzyme Caa1 to TORC1 activity in S. pombe.
    Keywords:  Caa1; Psk1; S6 kinase; Schizosaccharomyces pombe; TOR complex (TORC); aspartate amino acid transferase; glutamine synthase; nitrogen sensing; nutrient signaling; serine/threonine protein kinase; target of rapamycin (TOR)
  8. Neuron. 2019 Oct 09. pii: S0896-6273(19)30774-3. [Epub ahead of print]
      Age-related neurodegenerative disorders are characterized by a slow, persistent accumulation of aggregated proteins. Although cells can elicit physiological responses to enhance cellular clearance and counteract accumulation, it is unclear how pathogenic proteins evade this process in disease. We find that Parkinson's disease α-synuclein perturbs the physiological response to lysosomal stress by impeding the SNARE protein ykt6. Cytosolic ykt6 is normally autoinhibited by a unique farnesyl-mediated regulatory mechanism; however, during lysosomal stress, it activates and redistributes into membranes to preferentially promote hydrolase trafficking and enhance cellular clearance. α-Synuclein aberrantly binds and deactivates ykt6 in patient-derived neurons, thereby disabling the lysosomal stress response and facilitating protein accumulation. Activating ykt6 by small-molecule farnesyltransferase inhibitors restores lysosomal activity and reduces α-synuclein in patient-derived neurons and mice. Our findings indicate that α-synuclein creates a permissive environment for aggregate persistence by inhibiting regulated cellular clearance and provide a therapeutic strategy to restore protein homeostasis by harnessing SNARE activity.
    Keywords:  Parkinson’s disease; induced pluripotent stem cells; lysosomal storage disease; lysosomal stress; protein aggregation; proteomic stress; synucleinopathy
  9. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2019 Oct 25. pii: 201911246. [Epub ahead of print]
      Apoptosis activation by cytochrome c release from mitochondria to cytosol is a normal cellular response to mitochondrial damage. Using cellular apoptosis assay, we have found small-molecule apoptosis inhibitors that protect cells from mitochondrial damage. Previously, we reported the discovery of a small molecule, Compound A, which blocks dopaminergic neuron death in a rat model of Parkinson's disease through targeting succinate dehydrogenase subunit B (SDHB) of complex II to protect the integrity of the mitochondrial respiratory chain. Here, we report a small molecule, Compound R6, which saves cells from apoptosis via mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR)-mediated induction of autophagy. Additionally, we show that Compound R6 protects mitochondrial integrity and respiration after induction of the intrinsic apoptosis pathway. Encouragingly, and supporting the potential further application of Compound R6 as a tool for basic and medicinal research, a pharmacokinetics (PK) profiling study showed that Compound R6 is metabolically stable and can pass the blood-brain barrier. Moreover, Compound R6 accumulates in the brain of test animals via intravenous and intraperitoneal administration. Finally, we found that Compound R6 confers significant neuroprotective effects on a rat cerebral ischemia/reperfusion model, demonstrating its potential as a promising drug candidate for neurodegenerative diseases.
    Keywords:  apoptosis; autophagy; mTOR; mitochondria; stroke
  10. EMBO J. 2019 Oct 21. e101982
      Cellular senescence has been shown to contribute to skin ageing. However, the role of melanocytes in the process is understudied. Our data show that melanocytes are the only epidermal cell type to express the senescence marker p16INK4A during human skin ageing. Aged melanocytes also display additional markers of senescence such as reduced HMGB1 and dysfunctional telomeres, without detectable telomere shortening. Additionally, senescent melanocyte SASP induces telomere dysfunction in paracrine manner and limits proliferation of surrounding cells via activation of CXCR3-dependent mitochondrial ROS. Finally, senescent melanocytes impair basal keratinocyte proliferation and contribute to epidermal atrophy in vitro using 3D human epidermal equivalents. Crucially, clearance of senescent melanocytes using the senolytic drug ABT737 or treatment with mitochondria-targeted antioxidant MitoQ suppressed this effect. In conclusion, our study provides proof-of-concept evidence that senescent melanocytes affect keratinocyte function and act as drivers of human skin ageing.
    Keywords:   SASP ; melanocytes; senescence; skin ageing; telomeres
  11. Nat Rev Mol Cell Biol. 2019 Oct 21.
      Through their many and varied metabolic functions, mitochondria power life. Paradoxically, mitochondria also have a central role in apoptotic cell death. Upon induction of mitochondrial apoptosis, mitochondrial outer membrane permeabilization (MOMP) usually commits a cell to die. Apoptotic signalling downstream of MOMP involves cytochrome c release from mitochondria and subsequent caspase activation. As such, targeting MOMP in order to manipulate cell death holds tremendous therapeutic potential across different diseases, including neurodegenerative diseases, autoimmune disorders and cancer. In this Review, we discuss new insights into how mitochondria regulate apoptotic cell death. Surprisingly, recent data demonstrate that besides eliciting caspase activation, MOMP engages various pro-inflammatory signalling functions. As we highlight, together with new findings demonstrating cell survival following MOMP, this pro-inflammatory role suggests that mitochondria-derived signalling downstream of pro-apoptotic cues may also have non-lethal functions. Finally, we discuss the importance and roles of mitochondria in other forms of regulated cell death, including necroptosis, ferroptosis and pyroptosis. Collectively, these new findings offer exciting, unexplored opportunities to target mitochondrial regulation of cell death for clinical benefit.
  12. Nat Med. 2019 Oct 21.
      Dysregulation of the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) signaling, which is mediated by two structurally and functionally distinct complexes, mTORC1 and mTORC2, has been implicated in several neurological disorders1-3. Individuals carrying loss-of-function mutations in the phosphatase and tensin homolog (PTEN) gene, a negative regulator of mTOR signaling, are prone to developing macrocephaly, autism spectrum disorder (ASD), seizures and intellectual disability2,4,5. It is generally believed that the neurological symptoms associated with loss of PTEN and other mTORopathies (for example, mutations in the tuberous sclerosis genes TSC1 or TSC2) are due to hyperactivation of mTORC1-mediated protein synthesis1,2,4,6,7. Using molecular genetics, we unexpectedly found that genetic deletion of mTORC2 (but not mTORC1) activity prolonged lifespan, suppressed seizures, rescued ASD-like behaviors and long-term memory, and normalized metabolic changes in the brain of mice lacking Pten. In a more therapeutically oriented approach, we found that administration of an antisense oligonucleotide (ASO) targeting mTORC2's defining component Rictor specifically inhibits mTORC2 activity and reverses the behavioral and neurophysiological abnormalities in adolescent Pten-deficient mice. Collectively, our findings indicate that mTORC2 is the major driver underlying the neuropathophysiology associated with Pten-deficiency, and its therapeutic reduction could represent a promising and broadly effective translational therapy for neurological disorders where mTOR signaling is dysregulated.
  13. Geroscience. 2019 Oct 21.
      A key goal of geroscience research is to identify effective interventions to extend human healthspan, the years of healthy life. Currently, majority of the geroprotectors are found by screening compounds in model organisms; whether they will be effective in humans is largely unknown. Here we present a new strategy called ANDRU (aging network based drug discovery) to help the discovery of human geroprotectors. It first identifies human aging subnetworks that putatively function at the interface between aging and age-related diseases; it then screens for pharmacological interventions that may "reverse" the age-associated transcriptional changes occurred in these subnetworks. We applied ANDRU to human adipose gene expression data from the Genotype Tissue Expression (GTEx) project. For the top 31 identified compounds, 19 of them showed at least some evidence supporting their function in improving metabolic traits or lifespan, which include type 2 diabetes drugs such as pioglitazone. As the query aging genes were refined to the ones with more intimate links to diseases, ANDRU identified more meaningful drug hits than the general approach without considering the underlying network structures. In summary, ANDRU represents a promising human data-driven strategy that may speed up the discovery of interventions to extend human healthspan.
    Keywords:  Age-related diseases; Aging; Drug repurposing; Geroscience; Network pharmacology; Pharmacogenomics