bims-auttor Biomed News
on Autophagy and mTOR
Issue of 2021‒04‒25
thirty-two papers selected by
Viktor Korolchuk, Newcastle University

  1. Autophagy. 2021 Apr 05. 1-3
      Mitophagy is an essential mechanism in maintaining cellular homeostasis, in which damaged and superfluous mitochondria are selectively degraded by the autophagy-lysosome pathway. Our recent study revealed that SPATA33 functions as a novel receptor for mitophagy in the priming of mitochondria for degradation in male germline cells. SPATA33 directly mediates the interaction of the outer mitochondrial membrane protein VDAC2 with the autophagy machinery component ATG16L1 during mitophagy. Upon starvation induction, SPATA33 can promote mitophagy as an autophagy receptor. Thus, SPATA33 confers cargo selectivity during mitophagy in germline cells. These findings provide new insights into selective autophagy and mitochondrial homeostasis.
    Keywords:  Autophagy; SPATA33; mammals; mitochondria; spermatogenesis
  2. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2021 Apr 27. pii: e2021293118. [Epub ahead of print]118(17):
      In eukaryotes, secretory proteins traffic from the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) to the Golgi apparatus via coat protein complex II (COPII) vesicles. Intriguingly, during nutrient starvation, the COPII machinery acts constructively as a membrane source for autophagosomes during autophagy to maintain cellular homeostasis by recycling intermediate metabolites. In higher plants, essential roles of autophagy have been implicated in plant development and stress responses. Nonetheless, the membrane sources of autophagosomes, especially the participation of the COPII machinery in the autophagic pathway and autophagosome biogenesis, remains elusive in plants. Here, we provided evidence in support of a novel role of a specific Sar1 homolog AtSar1d in plant autophagy in concert with a unique Rab1/Ypt1 homolog AtRabD2a. First, proteomic analysis of the plant ATG (autophagy-related gene) interactome uncovered the mechanistic connections between ATG machinery and specific COPII components including AtSar1d and Sec23s, while a dominant negative mutant of AtSar1d exhibited distinct inhibition on YFP-ATG8 vacuolar degradation upon autophagic induction. Second, a transfer DNA insertion mutant of AtSar1d displayed starvation-related phenotypes. Third, AtSar1d regulated autophagosome progression through specific recognition of ATG8e by a noncanonical motif. Fourth, we demonstrated that a plant-unique Rab1/Ypt1 homolog AtRabD2a coordinates with AtSar1d to function as the molecular switch in mediating the COPII functions in the autophagy pathway. AtRabD2a appears to be essential for bridging the specific AtSar1d-positive COPII vesicles to the autophagy initiation complex and therefore contributes to autophagosome formation in plants. Taken together, we identified a plant-specific nexus of AtSar1d-AtRabD2a in regulating autophagosome biogenesis.
    Keywords:  Rab GTPase; Sar1; autophagy; coat protein complex II; plant stress
  3. Sci Adv. 2021 Apr;pii: eabg4922. [Epub ahead of print]7(17):
      Selective autophagy of damaged mitochondria, protein aggregates, and other cargoes is essential for health. Cargo initiates phagophore biogenesis, which entails the conjugation of LC3 to phosphatidylethanolamine. Current models suggest that clustered ubiquitin chains on a cargo trigger a cascade from autophagic cargo receptors through the core complexes ULK1 and class III phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase complex I, WIPI2, and the ATG7, ATG3, and ATG12ATG5-ATG16L1 machinery of LC3 lipidation. This was tested using giant unilamellar vesicles (GUVs), GST-Ub4 as a model cargo, the cargo receptors NDP52, TAX1BP1, and OPTN, and the autophagy core complexes. All three cargo receptors potently stimulated LC3 lipidation on GUVs. NDP52- and TAX1BP1-induced LC3 lipidation required all components, but not ULK1 kinase activity. However, OPTN bypassed the ULK1 requirement. Thus, cargo-dependent stimulation of LC3 lipidation is common to multiple autophagic cargo receptors, yet the details of core complex engagement vary between the different receptors.
  4. Stem Cell Reports. 2021 Apr 13. pii: S2213-6711(21)00161-2. [Epub ahead of print]
      Sequestosome-1 (SQSTM1/p62) is involved in cellular processes such as autophagy and metabolic reprogramming. Mutations resulting in the loss of function of SQSTM1 lead to neurodegenerative diseases including frontotemporal dementia. The pathogenic mechanism that contributes to SQSTM1-related neurodegeneration has been linked to its role as an autophagy adaptor, but this is poorly understood, and its precise role in mitochondrial function and clearance remains to be clarified. Here, we assessed the importance of SQSTM1 in human induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC)-derived cortical neurons through the knockout of SQSTM1. We show that SQSTM1 depletion causes altered mitochondrial gene expression and functionality, as well as autophagy flux, in iPSC-derived neurons. However, SQSTM1 is not essential for mitophagy despite having a significant impact on early PINK1-dependent mitophagy processes including PINK1 recruitment and phosphorylation of ubiquitin on depolarized mitochondria. These findings suggest that SQSTM1 is important for mitochondrial function rather than clearance.
    Keywords:  FTD; SQSTM1; iPSC disease modeling; mitochondria
  5. Biochim Biophys Acta Mol Cell Res. 2021 Apr 16. pii: S0167-4889(21)00095-1. [Epub ahead of print] 119041
      Oxidative stress is defined as "a serious imbalance between the generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and antioxidant defences in favour of ROS, causing excessive oxidative damage to biomolecules". Different stressors that induce autophagy, such as starvation and hypoxia, can increase production of ROS such as superoxide and hydrogen peroxide. This review provides brief summaries about oxidative stress and macroautophagy, and then considers current knowledge about the complex interactions between ROS and autophagy. ROS-induced autophagy could be a cellular protective mechanism that alleviates oxidative stress, or a destructive process. Increased ROS levels can regulate autophagy through several different pathways, such as activation of the AMPK signalling cascade and ULK1 complex, Atg4 oxidation, disruption of the Bcl-2/Beclin-1 interaction, and alteration of mitochondrial homeostasis leading to mitophagy. Autophagic degradation of Keap1 activates the antioxidant transcription factor Nrf2 and protects cells against ROS. Autophagy activation can, in turn, regulate oxidative stress by recycling damaged ROS-producing mitochondria. Macroautophagy plays an important role in degradation of large aggregates of oxidatively damaged/unfolded proteins, which are removed by the autophagy-lysosomal system. ROS can regulate autophagy, and in turn, autophagy can regulate oxidative stress. Future studies are necessary to improve understanding of the complex interactions between autophagy and oxidative stress.
    Keywords:  Autophagy; Cell signalling; Environmental stress; Oxidative stress; ROS; Xenobiotic
  6. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2021 Apr 13. pii: e2025522118. [Epub ahead of print]118(15):
      The mechanistic/mammalian target of rapamycin complex 1 (mTORC1) integrates multiple signals to regulate critical cellular processes such as mRNA translation, lipid biogenesis, and autophagy. Germline and somatic mutations in mTOR and genes upstream of mTORC1, such as PTEN, TSC1/2, AKT3, PIK3CA, and components of GATOR1 and KICSTOR complexes, are associated with various epileptic disorders. Increased mTORC1 activity is linked to the pathophysiology of epilepsy in both humans and animal models, and mTORC1 inhibition suppresses epileptogenesis in humans with tuberous sclerosis and animal models with elevated mTORC1 activity. However, the role of mTORC1-dependent translation and the neuronal cell types mediating the effect of enhanced mTORC1 activity in seizures remain unknown. The eukaryotic translation initiation factor 4E-binding protein 1 (4E-BP1) and 2 (4E-BP2) are translational repressors downstream of mTORC1. Here we show that the ablation of 4E-BP2, but not 4E-BP1, in mice increases the sensitivity to pentylenetetrazole (PTZ)- and kainic acid (KA)-induced seizures. We demonstrate that the deletion of 4E-BP2 in inhibitory, but not excitatory neurons, causes an increase in the susceptibility to PTZ-induced seizures. Moreover, mice lacking 4E-BP2 in parvalbumin, but not somatostatin or VIP inhibitory neurons exhibit a lowered threshold for seizure induction and reduced number of parvalbumin neurons. A mouse model harboring a human PIK3CA mutation that enhances the activity of the PI3K-AKT pathway (Pik3ca H1047R-Pvalb ) selectively in parvalbumin neurons shows susceptibility to PTZ-induced seizures. Our data identify 4E-BP2 as a regulator of epileptogenesis and highlight the central role of increased mTORC1-dependent translation in parvalbumin neurons in the pathophysiology of epilepsy.
    Keywords:  epilepsy; mRNA translation; mTORC1
  7. J Cell Biol. 2021 Jun 07. pii: e202006128. [Epub ahead of print]220(6):
      The Golgi complex is essential for the processing, sorting, and trafficking of newly synthesized proteins and lipids. Golgi turnover is regulated to meet different cellular physiological demands. The role of autophagy in the turnover of Golgi, however, has not been clarified. Here we show that CALCOCO1 binds the Golgi-resident palmitoyltransferase ZDHHC17 to facilitate Golgi degradation by autophagy during starvation. Depletion of CALCOCO1 in cells causes expansion of the Golgi and accumulation of its structural and membrane proteins. ZDHHC17 itself is degraded by autophagy together with other Golgi membrane proteins such as TMEM165. Taken together, our data suggest a model in which CALCOCO1 mediates selective Golgiphagy to control Golgi size and morphology in eukaryotic cells via its interaction with ZDHHC17.
  8. Plant Physiol. 2020 Oct 05. 184(2): 777-791
      Selective autophagy is a subcellular process whereby cytoplasmic materials are selectively sequestered into autophagosomes for subsequent delivery to the vacuole for degradation and recycling. Arabidopsis (Arabidopsis thaliana) NBR1 (next to BRCA1 gene 1 protein; AtNBR1) has been proposed to function as a selective autophagy receptor in plants, whereby AtNBR1 anchors the ubiquitinated targets to autophagosomes for degradation. However, the specific cargos of AtNBR1 remain elusive. We previously showed that Arabidopsis exocyst subunit EXO70 family protein E2 (AtExo70E2), a marker for exocyst-positive organelle (EXPO), colocalized with the autophagosome marker Arabidopsis autophagy-related protein8 (AtATG8) and was delivered to the vacuole for degradation upon autophagic induction. Here, through multiple analyses, we demonstrate that AtNBR1 is a selective receptor for AtExo70E2 during autophagy in Arabidopsis. First, two novel loss-of-function nbr1 CRISPR mutants (nbr1-c1 and nbr1-c2) showed an early-senescence phenotype under short-day growth conditions. Second, during autophagic induction, the vacuolar delivery of AtExo70E2 or EXPO was significantly reduced in nbr1 mutants compared to wild-type plants. Third, biochemical and recruitment assays demonstrated that AtNBR1 specifically interacted and recruited AtExo70E2 or its EXPO to AtATG8-positive autophagosomes in a ubiquitin-associated (UBA)-independent manner during autophagy. Taken together, our data indicate that AtNBR1 functions as a selective receptor in mediating vacuolar delivery of AtExo70E2 or EXPO in a UBA-independent manner in plant autophagy.
  9. Nat Commun. 2021 Apr 19. 12(1): 2316
      Synthesis and degradation of cellular constituents must be balanced to maintain cellular homeostasis, especially during adaptation to environmental stress. The role of autophagy in the degradation of proteins and organelles is well-characterized. However, autophagy-mediated RNA degradation in response to stress and the potential preference of specific RNAs to undergo autophagy-mediated degradation have not been examined. In this study, we demonstrate selective mRNA degradation by rapamycin-induced autophagy in yeast. Profiling of mRNAs from the vacuole reveals that subsets of mRNAs, such as those encoding amino acid biosynthesis and ribosomal proteins, are preferentially delivered to the vacuole by autophagy for degradation. We also reveal that autophagy-mediated mRNA degradation is tightly coupled with translation by ribosomes. Genome-wide ribosome profiling suggested a high correspondence between ribosome association and targeting to the vacuole. We propose that autophagy-mediated mRNA degradation is a unique and previously-unappreciated function of autophagy that affords post-transcriptional gene regulation.
  10. Autophagy. 2021 Apr 20. 1-3
      Autophagic lysosome reformation (ALR) recycles autolysosome membranes formed during autophagy, to make lysosomes and is essential for continued autophagy function. Localized membrane remodeling on autolysosomes leads to the extension of reformation tubules, which undergo scission to form new lysosomes. The phosphoinositides phosphatidylinositol-4-phosphate (PtdIns4P) and phosphatidylinositol-4,5-bisphosphate (PtdIns[4,5]P2) induce this remodeling by recruiting protein effectors to membranes. We identified the inositol polyphosphate 5-phosphatase INPP5K, which converts PtdIns(4,5)P2 to PtdIns4P is essential for ALR in skeletal muscle. INPP5K mutations that reduce its 5-phosphatase activity are known to cause muscular dystrophy, via an undefined mechanism. We generated skeletal muscle-specific inpp5k knockout mice which exhibited severe muscle disease, with lysosome depletion and marked autophagy inhibition. This was due to decreased PtdIns4P and increased PtdIns(4,5)P2 on autolysosomes, causing reduced scission of reformation tubules. ALR was restored in cells with loss of INPP5K by expression of wild-type INPP5K, but not muscle-disease causing mutants. Therefore on autolysosomes, both PtdIns(4,5)P2 generation and its removal by INPP5K is required for completion of ALR. Furthermore, skeletal muscle shows a dependence on the membrane recycling ALR pathway to maintain lysosome homeostasis and ensure the protective role of autophagy against disease.
    Keywords:  Autophagic lysosome reformation; INPP5K; PtdIns(4, 5)P2; PtdIns4P; autophagy; inositol polyphosphate 5-phosphatase; lysosome; muscular dystrophy; phosphoinositide; skeletal muscle
  11. Aging (Albany NY). 2021 Apr 19. 13
      Dry age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is marked by the accumulation of extracellular and intracellular lipid-rich deposits within and around the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE). Inducing autophagy, a conserved, intracellular degradative pathway, is a potential treatment strategy to prevent disease by clearing these deposits. However, mTOR inhibition, the major mechanism for inducing autophagy, disrupts core RPE functions. Here, we screened autophagy inducers that do not directly inhibit mTOR for their potential as an AMD therapeutic in primary human RPE culture. Only two out of more than thirty autophagy inducers tested reliably increased autophagy flux in RPE, emphasizing that autophagy induction mechanistically differs across distinct tissues. In contrast to mTOR inhibitors, these compounds preserved RPE health, and one inducer, the FDA-approved compound flubendazole (FLBZ), reduced the secretion of apolipoprotein that contributes to extracellular deposits termed drusen. Simultaneously, FLBZ increased production of the lipid-degradation product β-hydroxybutyrate, which is used by photoreceptor cells as an energy source. FLBZ also reduced the accumulation of intracellular deposits, termed lipofuscin, and alleviated lipofuscin-induced cellular senescence and tight-junction disruption. FLBZ triggered compaction of lipofuscin-like granules into a potentially less toxic form. Thus, induction of RPE autophagy without direct mTOR inhibition is a promising therapeutic approach for dry AMD.
    Keywords:  age-related macular degeneration (AMD); autophagy; drusen; lipofuscin; retinal pigment epithelium (RPE)
  12. Acta Physiol (Oxf). 2021 Apr 23. e13666
      AIM: Mitophagy is the regulated process that targets damaged or dysfunctional mitochondria for lysosomal-mediated removal. This process is an essential element of mitochondrial quality control, and dysregulation of mitophagy may contribute to a host of diseases, most notably neurodegenerative conditions such as Parkinson's disease. Mitochondria targeted for mitophagic destruction are molecularly marked by the ubiquitination of several outer mitochondrial membrane (OMM) proteins. This ubiquitination is positively regulated, in part, by the mitochondrial-targeted kinase PINK1 and the E3 ubiquitin ligase Parkin. In contrast, the reverse phenomenon, deubiquitination, removes ubiquitin from Parkin substrates embedded in the OMM proteins, antagonizing mitophagy. Recent evidence suggests that the mitochondrial deubiquitinase USP30 negatively regulates Parkin mediated mitophagy, providing opportunities to identify USP30 inhibitors and test for their effects in augmenting mitophagy. Here we will characterize a USP30 inhibitor and demonstrate how the pharmacological inhibition of USP30 can augment stress-induced mitophagic flux.METHODS: We have conducted mitophagy and mitochondrial analyses in cultured cells. We have determined the plasma pharmacokinetics of the USP30 inhibitor in mice and conducted analyses using the mt-Keima mice to measure in vivo mitophagy directly.
    RESULTS: The compound has minimal mitochondrial toxicity in cultured cells and is tolerated well in mice. Interestingly, we demonstrated tissue-specific induction of mitophagy following USP30 pharmacological inhibition. In particular, pharmacological inhibition of USP30 induces a significant increase in cardiac mitophagy without detriment to cardiac function.
    CONCLUSION: Our data support the evidence that USP30 inhibition may serve as a specific strategy to selectively increase mitophagic flux, allowing for the development of novel therapeutic approaches.
    Keywords:  Mitophagy; PINK1; Parkin; USP30; mitochondrial deubiquitination; mt-Keima
  13. Cell. 2021 Apr 14. pii: S0092-8674(21)00379-2. [Epub ahead of print]
      Components of the proteostasis network malfunction in aging, and reduced protein quality control in neurons has been proposed to promote neurodegeneration. Here, we investigate the role of chaperone-mediated autophagy (CMA), a selective autophagy shown to degrade neurodegeneration-related proteins, in neuronal proteostasis. Using mouse models with systemic and neuronal-specific CMA blockage, we demonstrate that loss of neuronal CMA leads to altered neuronal function, selective changes in the neuronal metastable proteome, and proteotoxicity, all reminiscent of brain aging. Imposing CMA loss on a mouse model of Alzheimer's disease (AD) has synergistic negative effects on the proteome at risk of aggregation, thus increasing neuronal disease vulnerability and accelerating disease progression. Conversely, chemical enhancement of CMA ameliorates pathology in two different AD experimental mouse models. We conclude that functional CMA is essential for neuronal proteostasis through the maintenance of a subset of the proteome with a higher risk of misfolding than the general proteome.
    Keywords:  Alzheimer’s disease; aging; chaperones; chemical activators of autophagy; lysosomes; neurodegeneration; protein aggregation; proteotoxicity; supersaturated proteome; tau
  14. Autophagy. 2021 Apr 18. 1-4
      Whether macroautophagy/autophagy is physiologically relevant to regulate mitochondrial function for a rapid and dynamic adaptation of yeast cells to respiratory growth was not fully understood until recently. May et al. (2020. Nat Commun) report that bulk autophagy provides serine as a one-carbon (1C) metabolite that controls respiratory growth onset by initiating mitochondrial initiator tRNAMet modification and mitochondrial translation linking autophagy mechanistically to mitochondrial function. We discuss the mechanistic interplay between autophagy, one-carbon-metabolism, and mitochondrial function and the possible implications in neurodegeneration, aging, and carcinogenesis.
    Keywords:  Autophagy; mitochondrial respiration; mitochondrial translation; one-carbon metabolism; respiratory growth
  15. Autophagy. 2021 Apr 23. 1-22
      Macroautophagy/autophagy is elevated to ensure the high demand for nutrients for the growth of cancer cells. Here we demonstrated that MCOLN1/TRPML1 is a pharmaceutical target of oncogenic autophagy in cancers such as pancreatic cancer, breast cancer, gastric cancer, malignant melanoma, and glioma. First, we showed that activating MCOLN1, by increasing expression of the channel or using the MCOLN1 agonists, ML-SA5 or MK6-83, arrests autophagic flux by perturbing fusion between autophagosomes and lysosomes. Second, we demonstrated that MCOLN1 regulates autophagy by mediating the release of zinc from the lysosome to the cytosol. Third, we uncovered that zinc influx through MCOLN1 blocks the interaction between STX17 (syntaxin 17) in the autophagosome and VAMP8 in the lysosome and thereby disrupting the fusion process that is determined by the two SNARE proteins. Furthermore, we demonstrated that zinc influx originating from the extracellular fluid arrests autophagy by the same mechanism as lysosomal zinc, confirming the fundamental function of zinc as a participant in membrane trafficking. Last, we revealed that activating MCOLN1 with the agonists, ML-SA5 or MK6-83, triggers cell death of a number of cancer cells by evoking autophagic arrest and subsequent apoptotic response and cell cycle arrest, with little or no effect observed on normal cells. Consistent with the in vitro results, administration of ML-SA5 in Patu 8988 t xenograft mice profoundly suppresses tumor growth and improves survival. These results establish that a lysosomal cation channel, MCOLN1, finely controls oncogenic autophagy in cancer by mediating zinc influx into the cytosol.
    Keywords:  Autophagic arrest; MCOLN1; autophagosome-lysosome fusion; cancer; zinc influx
  16. Biochim Biophys Acta Mol Cell Res. 2021 Apr 16. pii: S0167-4889(21)00099-9. [Epub ahead of print] 119045
      PGAM5 is a protein phosphatase located in the inner mitochondrial membrane through its transmembrane (TM) domain and is cleaved within the TM domain upon mitochondrial dysfunction. We found previously that cleaved PGAM5 is released from mitochondria, following proteasome-mediated rupture of the outer mitochondrial membrane during mitophagy, a selective form of autophagy specific to mitochondria. Here, we examined the role of cleaved PGAM5 outside mitochondria. Deletion mutants that mimic cleaved PGAM5 existed not only in the cytosol but also in the nucleus, and a fraction of cleaved PGAM5 translocated to the nucleus during mitophagy induced by the uncoupler CCCP. We identified serine/arginine-related nuclear matrix protein of 160 kDa (SRm160)/SRRM1, which contains a highly phosphorylated domain rich in arginine/serine dipeptides, called the RS domain, as a nuclear protein that interacts with PGAM5. PGAM5 dephosphorylated SRm160, and incubation of lysates from WT cells, but not of those from PGAM5-deficient cells, induced dephosphorylation of SRm160 and another RS domain-containing protein SRSF1, one of the most characterized serine/arginine-rich (SR) proteins. Moreover, phosphorylation of these proteins and other SR proteins, which are commonly reactive toward the 1H4 monoclonal antibody that detects phosphorylated SR proteins, decreased during mitophagy, largely because of PGAM5 activity. These results suggest that PGAM5 regulates phosphorylation of these nuclear proteins during mitophagy. Because SRm160 and SR proteins play critical roles in mRNA metabolism, PGAM5 may coordinate cellular responses to mitochondrial stress at least in part through post-transcriptional and pre-translational events.
    Keywords:  Mitochondria; Mitophagy; PGAM5; Parkin; Protein phosphatase; SR proteins
  17. Autophagy. 2021 Apr 18.
      The hepatitis B virus X protein (HBx) is involved in the process of hepatocellular carcinoma via the activation of various oncogenes. Our previous study indicated that ARBB1 (arrestin beta 1) promotes hepatocellular carcinogenesis (HCC). However, the role of ARRB1 in HBx-related HCC remains unclear. Herein, we identified that ARRB1 was upregulated by HBx in vivo and in vitro. Arrb1 deficiency suppressed HBx-induced hepatocellular carcinogenesis in several mouse models. Furthermore, knockdown of ARRB1 blocked HBx-induced macroautophagic/autophagic flux and disrupted the formation of autophagosomes. ARRB1 interacted with HBx, and the autophagic core protein MAP1LC3/LC3, a scaffolding protein, was essential for complete autophagy. Inhibition of autophagy by 3-methyladenine or interference of ATG5 or ATG7 attenuated HBx-induced cell cycle acceleration and the subsequent proliferative response via the induction of G1/S arrest. The absence of autophagy abolished the phosphorylation of CDK2 and the activity of the CDK2-CCNE1 complex. Our results demonstrate that ARRB1 plays a critical role in HBV-related HCC via modulating autophagy and the CDKN1B-CDK2-CCNE1-E2F1 axis and indicate that ARRB1 may be a potential therapeutic target for HCC.
    Keywords:  ARRB1; autophagy; cell cycle; hepatitis B virus X protein; hepatocellular carcinoma
  18. Cell Signal. 2021 Apr 16. pii: S0898-6568(21)00098-X. [Epub ahead of print] 110010
      Activation of the protein kinase mechanistic target of rapamycin (mTOR) in both complexes 1 and 2 (mTORC1/2) in the liver is repressed during fasting and rapidly stimulated in response to a meal. The effect of feeding on hepatic mTORC1/2 is attributed to an increase in plasma levels of nutrients, such as amino acids, and insulin. By contrast, fasting is associated with elevated plasma levels of glucagon, which is conventionally viewed as having a counter-regulatory role to insulin. More recently an expanded role for glucagon action in post-prandial metabolism has been demonstrated. Herein we investigated the impact of insulin and glucagon on mTORC1/2 activation. In H4IIE and HepG2 cultures, insulin enhanced phosphorylation of the mTORC1 substrates S6K1 and 4E-BP1. Surprisingly, the effect of glucagon on mTORC1 was biphasic, wherein there was an acute increase in phosphorylation of S6K1 and 4E-BP1 over the first hour of exposure, followed by latent suppression. The transient stimulatory effect of glucagon on mTORC1 was not additive with insulin, suggesting convergent signaling. Glucagon enhanced cAMP levels and mTORC1 stimulation required activation of the glucagon receptor, PI3K/Akt, and exchange protein activated by cAMP (EPAC). EPAC acts as the guanine nucleotide exchange factor for the small GTPase Rap1. Rap1 expression enhanced S6K1 phosphorylation and glucagon addition to culture medium promoted Rap1-GTP loading. Signaling through mTORC1 acts to regulate protein synthesis and we found that glucagon promoted an EPAC-dependent increase in protein synthesis. Overall, the findings support that glucagon elicits acute activation of mTORC1/2 by an EPAC-dependent increase in Rap1-GTP.
    Keywords:  Cyclic AMP; Diabetes; Glucagon; Insulin; Liver; Protein synthesis
  19. J Mol Biol. 2021 Apr 15. pii: S0022-2836(21)00190-X. [Epub ahead of print] 166989
      DEP domain containing mTOR-interacting protein (DEPTOR) plays pivotal roles in regulating metabolism, growth, autophagy and apoptosis by functions as an endogenous inhibitor of mTOR signaling pathway. Activated by phosphatidic acid, a second messenger in mTOR signaling, DEPTOR dissociates from mTORC1 complex with unknown mechanism. Here, we present a 1.5 Å resolution crystal structure, which shows that the N-terminal two tandem DEP domains of hDEPTOR fold into a dumbbell-shaped structure, protruding the characteristic β-hairpin arms of DEP domains on each side. An 18 amino acids DDEX motif at the end of DEP2 interacts with DEP1 and stabilizes the structure. Biochemical studies showed that the tandem DEP domains directly interact with phosphatidic acid using two distinct positively charged patches. These results provide insights into mTOR activation upon phosphatidic acid stimulation.
    Keywords:  Anionic lipid; Crystal structure; DDEX motif; DEPDC6; mTOR
  20. J Histochem Cytochem. 2021 Apr 22. 221554211011423
      During autophagy, autophagosomes are formed to engulf cytoplasmic contents. p62/SQSTM-1 is an autophagic adaptor protein that forms p62 bodies. A unique feature of p62 bodies is that they seem to directly associate with membranous structures. We first investigated the co-localization of mKate2-p62 bodies with phospholipids using click chemistry with propargyl-choline. Propargyl-choline-labeled phospholipids were detected inside the mKate2-p62 bodies, suggesting that phospholipids were present inside the bodies. To clarify whether or not p62 bodies come in contact with membranous structures directly, we investigated the ultrastructures of p62 bodies using in-resin correlative light and electron microscopy of the Epon-embedded cells expressing mKate2-p62. Fluorescent-positive p62 bodies were detected as uniformly lightly osmificated structures by electron microscopy. Membranous structures were detected on and inside the p62 bodies. In addition, multimembranous structures with rough endoplasmic reticulum-like structures that resembled autophagosomes directly came in contact with amorphous-shaped p62 bodies. These results suggested that p62 bodies are unique structures that can come in contact with membranous structures directly.
    Keywords:  click chemistry; in-resin CLEM; propargyl-choline; selective autophagy
  21. Biomol Ther (Seoul). 2021 Apr 20.
      Autophagy is an important degradative pathway that eliminates misfolded proteins and damaged organelles from cells. Autophagy is crucial for neuronal homeostasis and function. A lack of or deficiency in autophagy leads to the accumulation of protein aggregates, which are associated with several neurodegenerative diseases. Compared with non-neuronal cells, neurons exhibit rapid autophagic flux because damaged organelles or protein aggregates cannot be diluted in post-mitotic cells; because of this, these cells exhibit characteristic features of autophagy, such as compartment-specific autophagy, which depends on polarized structures and rapid autophagy flux. In addition, neurons exhibit compartment-specific autophagy, which depends on polarized structures. Neuronal autophagy may have additional physiological roles other than amino acid recycling. In this review, we focus on the characteristics and regulatory factors of neuronal autophagy. We also describe intracellular selective autophagy in neurons and its association with neurodegenerative diseases.
    Keywords:  Autophagy; Characteristic; Neurological disorder; Neurons; Selective autophagy
  22. Int J Biol Sci. 2021 ;17(4): 1138-1152
      Spinal cord injury (SCI) results in a wide range of disabilities. Its complex pathophysiological process limits the effectiveness of many clinical treatments. Betulinic acid (BA) has been shown to be an effective treatment for some neurological diseases, but it has not been studied in SCI. In this study, we assessed the role of BA in SCI and investigated its underlying mechanism. We used a mouse model of SCI, and functional outcomes following injury were assessed. Western blotting, ELISA, and immunofluorescence techniques were employed to analyze levels of autophagy, mitophagy, pyroptosis, and AMPK-related signaling pathways were also examined. Our results showed that BA significantly improved functional recovery following SCI. Furthermore, autophagy, mitophagy, ROS level and pyroptosis were implicated in the mechanism of BA in the treatment of SCI. Specifically, our results suggest that BA restored autophagy flux following injury, which induced mitophagy to eliminate the accumulation of ROS and inhibits pyroptosis. Further mechanistic studies revealed that BA likely regulates autophagy and mitophagy via the AMPK-mTOR-TFEB signaling pathway. Those results showed that BA can significantly promote the recovery following SCI and that it may be a promising therapy for SCI.
    Keywords:  Betulinic acid; autophagy; mitophagy; pyroptosis; spinal cord injury
  23. J Cell Biol. 2021 May 03. pii: e202010004. [Epub ahead of print]220(5):
      Mitochondria, which are excluded from the secretory pathway, depend on lipid transport proteins for their lipid supply from the ER, where most lipids are synthesized. In yeast, the outer mitochondrial membrane GTPase Gem1 is an accessory factor of ERMES, an ER-mitochondria tethering complex that contains lipid transport domains and that functions, partially redundantly with Vps13, in lipid transfer between the two organelles. In metazoa, where VPS13, but not ERMES, is present, the Gem1 orthologue Miro was linked to mitochondrial dynamics but not to lipid transport. Here we show that Miro, including its peroxisome-enriched splice variant, recruits the lipid transport protein VPS13D, which in turn binds the ER in a VAP-dependent way and thus could provide a lipid conduit between the ER and mitochondria. These findings reveal a so far missing link between function(s) of Gem1/Miro in yeast and higher eukaryotes, where Miro is a Parkin substrate, with potential implications for Parkinson's disease pathogenesis.
  24. Exp Mol Med. 2021 Apr 20.
      The autophagy-lysosomal degradation system has an important role in maintaining liver homeostasis by removing unnecessary intracellular components. Impaired autophagy has been linked to nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), which includes hepatitis, steatosis, fibrosis, and cirrhosis. Thus, gaining an understanding of the mechanisms that regulate autophagy and how autophagy contributes to the development and progression of NAFLD has become the focus of recent studies. Autophagy regulation has been thought to be primarily regulated by cytoplasmic processes; however, recent studies have shown that microRNAs (miRNAs) and transcription factors (TFs) also act as key regulators of autophagy by targeting autophagy-related genes. In this review, we summarize the miRNAs and TFs that regulate the autophagy pathway in NAFLD. We further focus on the transcriptional and posttranscriptional regulation of autophagy and discuss the complex regulatory networks involving these regulators in autophagy. Finally, we highlight the potential of targeting miRNAs and TFs involved in the regulation of autophagy for the treatment of NAFLD.
  25. Dev Cell. 2021 Apr 13. pii: S1534-5807(21)00307-5. [Epub ahead of print]
      Niemann-Pick disease type C (NPC) is a neurodegenerative lysosomal storage disorder characterized by lipid accumulation in endolysosomes. An early pathologic hallmark is axonal dystrophy occurring at presymptomatic stages in NPC mice. However, the mechanisms underlying this pathologic change remain obscure. Here, we demonstrate that endocytic-autophagic organelles accumulate in NPC dystrophic axons. Using super-resolution and live-neuron imaging, we reveal that elevated cholesterol on NPC lysosome membranes sequesters kinesin-1 and Arl8 independent of SKIP and Arl8-GTPase activity, resulting in impaired lysosome transport into axons, contributing to axonal autophagosome accumulation. Pharmacologic reduction of lysosomal membrane cholesterol with 2-hydroxypropyl-β-cyclodextrin (HPCD) or elevated Arl8b expression rescues lysosome transport, thereby reducing axonal autophagic stress and neuron death in NPC. These findings demonstrate a pathological mechanism by which altered membrane lipid composition impairs lysosome delivery into axons and provide biological insights into the translational application of HPCD in restoring axonal homeostasis at early stages of NPC disease.
    Keywords:  Niemann-Pick disease type C; autophagosome; axonal dystrophy; axonal transport; cholesterol; kinesin; lipid; lysosomal storage disorder; lysosome; neurodegeneration
  26. Bio Protoc. 2021 Apr 05. 11(7): e3975
      The Target of Rapamycin kinase Complex I (TORC1) is the master regulator of cell growth and metabolism in eukaryotes. In the presence of pro-growth hormones and abundant nutrients, TORC1 is active and drives protein, lipid, and nucleotide synthesis by phosphorylating a wide range of proteins. In contrast, when nitrogen and/or glucose levels fall, TORC1 is inhibited, causing the cell to switch from anabolic to catabolic metabolism, and eventually enter a quiescent state. In the budding yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, TORC1 inhibition triggers the movement of TORC1 from its position around the vacuole to a single focus/body on the edge of the vacuolar membrane. This relocalization depends on the activity of numerous key TORC1 regulators and thus analysis of TORC1 localization can be used to follow signaling through the TORC1 pathway. Here we provide a detailed protocol for measuring TORC1 (specifically, Kog1-YFP) relocalization/signaling using fluorescence microscopy. Emphasis is placed on procedures that ensure: (1) TORC1-bodies are identified (and counted) correctly despite their relatively low fluorescence and the accumulation of autofluorescent foci during glucose and nitrogen starvation; (2) Cells are kept in log-phase growth at the start of each experiment so that the dynamics of TORC1-body formation are monitored correctly; (3) The appropriate fluorescent tags are used to avoid examining mislocalized TORC1.
    Keywords:  Kog1; Kog1-body; TORC1; TORC1-body; Tor1
  27. Pharmacol Res. 2021 Apr 19. pii: S1043-6618(21)00212-7. [Epub ahead of print] 105628
      Extracellular vesicles are composed of loaded soluble substances and lipid bilayers; these include apoptotic bodies, exosomes, and microvesicles. Extracellular vesicles, as carriers of biological information between cells, have been recognized for their role in the diagnosis and treatment of cardiovascular diseases. The biogenesis of extracellular vesicles is closely related to autophagy. Moreover, extracellular vesicles further affect autophagy levels in target cells through their transmitted contents. Autophagy is a catabolic cell process that maintains cell homeostasis by eliminating misfolded proteins and damaged organelles. Existing studies have revealed that extracellular vesicles and autophagy share molecular mechanisms with notable crosstalk, including, perspectives such as amphisomes and "secretory autophagy." In this review, we first introduce the biogenesis of extracellular vesicles and the classic views of autophagy before moving onto the crosstalk between extracellular vesicles and autophagy. Finally, we discuss the research progress of extracellular vesicles and autophagy in cardiovascular pathophysiology.
    Keywords:  Autophagy; Cardiovascular diseases; Cardiovascular pathophysiology; Extracellular vesicles
  28. Cell Death Dis. 2021 Apr 20. 12(5): 416
      DDRGK domain-containing protein 1 (DDRGK1) is an important component of the newly discovered ufmylation system and its absence has been reported to induce extensive endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress. Recently, emerging evidence indicates that the ufmylation system is correlated with autophagy, although the exact mechanism remains largely unknown. To explore the regulation mechanism of DDRGK1 on autophagy, in this study, we established an immortalized mouse embryonic fibroblast (MEF) cell lines harvested from the DDRGK1F/F:ROSA26-CreERT2 mice, in which DDRGK1 depletion can be induced by 4-hydroxytamoxifen (4-OHT) treatment. Here, we show that DDRGK1 deficiency in MEFs has a dual effect on autophagy, which leads to a significant accumulation of autophagosomes. On one hand, it promotes autophagy induction by impairing mTOR signaling; on the other hand, it blocks autophagy degradation by inhibiting autophagosome-lysosome fusion. This dual effect of DDRGK1 depletion on autophagy ultimately aggravates apoptosis in MEFs. Further studies reveal that DDRGK1 loss is correlated with suppressed lysosomal function, including impaired Cathepsin D (CTSD) expression, aberrant lysosomal pH, and v-ATPase accumulation, which might be a potential trigger for impairment in autophagy process. Hence, this study confirms a crucial role of DDRGK1 as an autophagy regulator by controlling lysosomal function. It may provide a theoretical basis for the treatment strategies of various physiological diseases caused by DDRGK1 deficiency.
  29. Autophagy. 2021 Apr 23. 1-15
      Despite the promising therapeutic effects of combinatory antiretroviral therapy (cART), 20% to 30% of HIV/AIDS patients living with long term infection still exhibit related cognitive and motor disorders. Clinical studies in HIV-infected patients revealed evidence of basal ganglia dysfunction, tremors, fine motor movement deficits, gait, balance, and increased risk of falls. Among older HIV+ adults, the frequency of cases with SNCA/α-synuclein staining is higher than in older healthy persons and may predict an increased risk of developing a neurodegenerative disease. The accumulation of SNCA aggregates known as Lewy Bodies is widely described to be directly linked to motor dysfunction. These aggregates are naturally removed by Macroautophagy/autophagy, a cellular housekeeping mechanism, that can be disturbed by HIV-1. The molecular mechanisms involved in linking HIV-1 proteins and autophagy remain mostly unclear and necessitates further exploration. We showed that HIV-1 Vpr protein triggers the accumulation of SNCA in neurons after decreasing lysosomal acidification, deregulating lysosome positioning, and the expression levels of several proteins involved in lysosomal maturation. Viruses and retroviruses such as HIV-1 are known to manipulate autophagy in order to use it for their replication while blocking the degradative final step, which could destroy the virus itself. Our study highlights how the suppression of neuronal autophagy by HIV-1 Vpr is a mechanism leading to toxic protein aggregation and neurodegeneration.
    Keywords:  Alpha-synuclein; HIV-1; Snapin; autophagy; lysosomes; motor dysfunction; neurons
  30. Brain. 2021 Apr 20. pii: awab073. [Epub ahead of print]
      Parkinson's disease is characterized by the progressive degeneration of dopaminergic neurons within the substantia nigra pars compacta and the presence of protein aggregates in surviving neurons. The LRRK2 G2019S mutation is one of the major determinants of familial Parkinson's disease cases and leads to late-onset Parkinson's disease with pleomorphic pathology, including α-synuclein accumulation and deposition of protein inclusions. We demonstrated that LRRK2 phosphorylates N-ethylmaleimide sensitive factor (NSF). We observed aggregates containing NSF in basal ganglia specimens from patients with Parkinson's disease carrying the G2019S variant, and in cellular and animal models expressing the LRRK2 G2019S variant. We found that LRRK2 G2019S kinase activity induces the accumulation of NSF in toxic aggregates. Of note, the induction of autophagy cleared NSF aggregation and rescued motor and cognitive impairment observed in aged hG2019S bacterial artificial chromosome (BAC) mice. We suggest that LRRK2 G2019S pathological phosphorylation impacts on NSF biochemical properties, thus causing the formation of cytotoxic protein inclusions.
    Keywords:  LRRK2; Parkinson's disease; aggregation; autophagy
  31. J Clin Biochem Nutr. 2021 Mar;68(2): 156-163
      Autophagy-associated genes have been identified as susceptible loci for inflammatory bowel disease. We investigated the role of a core autophagy factor, Atg5, in the development of dextran sodium sulfate (DSS)-induced colitis. Intestinal epithelial cell (IEC)-specific Atg5 gene deficient mice (Atg5 ΔIEC mice) were generated by cross of Atg5-floxed mice (Atg5 fl/fl ) with transgenic mice expressing Cre-recombinase driven by the villin promotor. Mice were given three cycles of 1.5% DSS in drinking water for 5 days and regular water for 14 days over a 60-day period. The dysfunction of autophagy characterized by a marked accumulation of p62 protein, a substrate for autophagy degradation, was detected in epithelial cells in the non-inflamed and inflamed mucosa of inflammatory bowel disease patients. DSS-colitis was exacerbated in Atg5 ΔIEC mice compared to control Atg5 fl/fl mice. Phosphorylation of inositol-requiring transmembrane kinase/endonuclease1α (IRE1α), a sensor for endoplasmic reticulum stress, and c-Jun N-terminal kinase, a downstream target of IRE1α, were significantly enhanced in IECs in DSS-treated Atg5 ΔIEC mice. Accumulation of phosphorylated IRE1α was enhanced by the treatment with chloroquine, an autophagy inhibitor. Apoptotic IECs were more abundant in DSS-treated Atg5 ΔIEC mice. These findings suggest that Atg5 suppresses endoplasmic reticulum stress-induced apoptosis of IECs via the degradation of excess p-IRE1α.
    Keywords:  IBD; IRE1α; autophagy
  32. Nucleic Acids Res. 2021 Apr 24. pii: gkab267. [Epub ahead of print]
      The eIF4E are a family of initiation factors that bind the mRNA 5' cap, regulating the proteome and the cellular phenotype. eIF4E1 mediates global translation and its activity is controlled via the PI3K/AKT/mTOR pathway. mTOR down-regulation results in eIF4E1 sequestration into an inactive complex with the 4E binding proteins (4EBPs). The second member, eIF4E2, regulates the translatome during hypoxia. However, the exact function of the third member, eIF4E3, has remained elusive. We have dissected its function using a range of techniques. Starting from the observation that it does not interact with 4EBP1, we demonstrate that eIF4E3 recruitment into an eIF4F complex occurs when Torin1 inhibits the mTOR pathway. Ribo-seq studies demonstrate that this complex (eIF4FS) is translationally active during stress and that it selects specific mRNA populations based on 5' TL (UTR) length. The interactome reveals that it associates with cellular proteins beyond the cognate initiation factors, suggesting that it may have 'moon-lighting' functions. Finally, we provide evidence that cellular metabolism is altered in an eIF4E3 KO background but only upon Torin1 treatment. We propose that eIF4E3 acts as a second branch of the integrated stress response, re-programming the translatome to promote 'stress resistance' and adaptation.