Atg9 interactions via its transmembrane domains are required for phagophore expansion during autophagy

Sabrina Chumpen RamirezRubén Gómez-SánchezPauline VerlhacRalph HardenbergEleonora MargheritisKatia CosentinoFulvio ReggioriChristian Ungermann
Abstract: During macroautophagy/autophagy, precursor cisterna known as phagophores expand and sequester portions of the cytoplasm and/or organelles, and subsequently close resulting in double-membrane transport vesicles called autophagosomes. Autophagosomes fuse with lysosomes/vacuoles to allow the degradation and recycling of their cargoes. We previously showed that sequential binding of yeast Atg2 and Atg18 to Atg9, the only conserved transmembrane protein in autophagy, at the extremities of the phagophore mediates the establishment of membrane contact sites between the phagophore and the endoplasmic reticulum. As the Atg2-Atg18 complex transfers lipids between adjacent membranes in vitro, it has been postulated that this activity and the scramblase activity of the trimers formed by Atg9 are required for the phagophore expansion. Here, we present evidence that Atg9 indeed promotes Atg2-Atg18 complex-mediated lipid transfer in vitro, although this is not the only requirement for its function in vivo. In particular, we show that Atg9 function is dramatically compromised by a F627A mutation within the conserved interface between the transmembrane domains of the Atg9 monomers. Although Atg9F627A self-interacts and binds to the Atg2-Atg18 complex, the F627A mutation blocks the phagophore expansion and thus autophagy progression. This phenotype is conserved because the corresponding human ATG9A mutant severely impairs autophagy as well. Importantly, Atg9F627A has identical scramblase activity in vitro like Atg9, and as with the wild-type protein enhances Atg2-Atg18-mediated lipid transfer. Collectively, our data reveal that interactions of Atg9 trimers via their transmembrane segments play a key role in phagophore expansion beyond Atg9’s role as a lipid scramblase.
Keywords: Autophagosome; lipid transfer; membrane contact site; phagophore; scramblase.
PMID: 36354155; DOI:

Measuring Autophagic Cargo Flux with Keima-Based Probes

Abstract: Autophagy and autophagy-associated genes are implicated in a growing list of cellular, physiological, and pathophysiological processes and conditions. Therefore, it is ever more important to be able to reliably monitor and quantify autophagic activity. Whereas autophagic markers, such as LC3 can provide general indications about autophagy, specific and accurate detection of autophagic activity requires assessment of autophagic cargo flux. Here, we provide protocols on how to monitor bulk and selective autophagy by the use of inducible expression of exogenous probes based on the fluorescent coral protein Keima. To exemplify and demonstrate the power of this system, we provide data obtained by analyses of cytosolic and mitochondrially targeted Keima probes in human retinal epithelial cells treated with the mTOR-inhibitor Torin1 or with the iron chelator deferiprone (DFP). Our data indicate that Torin1 induces autophagic flux of cytosol and mitochondria to a similar degree, that is, compatible with induction of bulk autophagy, whereas DFP induces a highly selective form of mitophagy that efficiently excludes cytosol.
Keywords: Autophagic cargo flux; Autophagy; Bulk autophagy; Deferiprone; LDHB-mKeima; Mito-mKeima; Mitophagy; Selective autophagy; Torin1; mKeima
PMID: 34972988; DOI: 

Perturbation of Cellular Redox Homeostasis Dictates Divergent Effects of Polybutyl Cyanoacrylate (PBCA) Nanoparticles on Autophagy

Tonje SønstevoldNikolai EngedalMaria Lyngaas Torgersen 
Abstract: Nanoparticles (NPs) are used in our everyday life, including as drug delivery vehicles. However, the effects of NPs at the cellular level and their impacts on autophagy are poorly understood. Here, we demonstrate that the NP drug delivery vehicle poly(butyl cyanoacrylate) (PBCA) perturbs redox homeostasis in human epithelial cells, and that the degree of redox perturbation dictates divergent effects of PBCA on autophagy. Specifically, PBCA promoted functional autophagy at low concentrations, whereas it inhibited autophagy at high concentrations. Both effects were completely abolished by the antioxidant N-acetyl cysteine (NAC). High concentrations of PBCA inhibited MAP1LC3B/GABARAP lipidation and LC3 flux, and blocked bulk autophagic cargo flux induced by mTOR inhibition. These effects were mimicked by the redox regulator H2O2. In contrast, low concentrations of PBCA enhanced bulk autophagic cargo flux in a Vps34-, ULK1/2- and ATG13-dependent manner, yet interestingly, without an accompanying increase in LC3 lipidation or flux. PBCA activated MAP kinase signaling cascades in a redox-dependent manner, and interference with individual signaling components revealed that the autophagy-stimulating effect of PBCA required the action of the JNK and p38-MK2 pathways, whose activities converged on the pro-autophagic protein Beclin-1. Collectively, our results reveal that PBCA exerts a dual effect on autophagy depending on the severity of the NP insult and the resulting perturbation of redox homeostasis. Such a dual autophagy-modifying effect may be of general relevance for redox-perturbing NPs and have important implications in nanomedicine.
Keywords: autophagy; nanoparticle; oxidative stress; p38; poly(alkyl cyanoacrylate)
PMID: 34943939; DOI:

Autophagy induction during stem cell activation plays a key role in salivary gland self-renewal

Idil OrhonCecilia RocchiBeatriz Villarejo-ZoriPaola Serrano MartinezMirjam BaanstraUilke BrouwerPatricia BoyaRob CoppesFulvio Reggiori
Abstract: Relatively quiescent tissues like salivary glands (SGs) respond to stimuli such as injury to expand, replace and regenerate. Resident stem/progenitor cells are key in this process because, upon activation, they possess the ability to self-renew. Macroautophagy/autophagy contributes to and regulates differentiation in adult tissues, but an important question is whether this pathway promotes stem cell self-renewal in tissues. We took advantage of a 3D organoid system that allows assessing the self-renewal of mouse SGs stem cells (SGSCs). We found that autophagy in dormant SGSCs has slower flux than self-renewing SGSCs. Importantly, autophagy enhancement upon SGSCs activation is a self-renewal feature in 3D organoid cultures and SGs regenerating in vivo. Accordingly, autophagy ablation in SGSCs inhibits self-renewal whereas pharmacological stimulation promotes self-renewal of mouse and human SGSCs. Thus, autophagy is a key pathway for self-renewal activation in low proliferative adult tissues, and its pharmacological manipulation has the potential to promote tissue regeneration.
Keywords: Autophagy; maintenance; salivary glands; self-renewal; stem cells.
PMID: 34009100; DOI:

Phosphoregulation of the autophagy machinery by kinases and phosphatases

Mariya LichevaBabu RamanClaudine KraftFulvio Reggiori
Abstract: Eukaryotic cells use post-translational modifications to diversify and dynamically coordinate the function and properties of protein networks within various cellular processes. For example, the process of autophagy strongly depends on the balanced action of kinases and phosphatases. Highly conserved from the budding yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae to humans, autophagy is a tightly regulated self-degradation process that is crucial for survival, stress adaptation, maintenance of cellular and organismal homeostasis, and cell differentiation and development. Many studies have emphasized the importance of kinases and phosphatases in the regulation of autophagy and identified many of the core autophagy proteins as their direct targets. In this review, we summarize the current knowledge on kinases and phosphatases acting on the core autophagy machinery and discuss the relevance of phosphoregulation for the overall process of autophagy.
Keywords: Autophagosome; PAS; macroautophagy; phagophore; posttranslational modification.
PMID: 33970777; DOI:

WDR45, one gene associated with multiple neurodevelopmental disorders

Yingying CongVincent SoMarina A J TijssenDineke S VerbeekFulvio ReggioriMario Mauthe 
Abstract: The WDR45 gene is localized on the X-chromosome and variants in this gene are linked to six different neurodegenerative disorders, i.e., ß-propeller protein associated neurodegeneration, Rett-like syndrome, intellectual disability, and epileptic encephalopathies including developmental and epileptic encephalopathy, early-onset epileptic encephalopathy and West syndrome and potentially also specific malignancies. WDR45/WIPI4 is a WD-repeat β-propeller protein that belongs to the WIPI (WD repeat domain, phosphoinositide interacting) family. The precise cellular function of WDR45 is still largely unknown, but deletions or conventional variants in WDR45 can lead to macroautophagy/autophagy defects, malfunctioning mitochondria, endoplasmic reticulum stress and unbalanced iron homeostasis, suggesting that this protein functions in one or more pathways regulating directly or indirectly those processes. As a result, the underlying cause of the WDR45-associated disorders remains unknown. In this review, we summarize the current knowledge about the cellular and physiological functions of WDR45 and highlight how genetic variants in its encoding gene may contribute to the pathophysiology of the associated diseases. In particular, we connect clinical manifestations of the disorders with their potential cellular origin of malfunctioning and critically discuss whether it is possible that one of the most prominent shared features, i.e., brain iron accumulation, is the primary cause for those disorders.
Keywords: Autophagy; beta-propeller protein-associated neurodegeneration; brain iron accumulation; endoplasmic reticulum; mitochondria.
PMID: 33843443; DOI:

The ménage à trois of autophagy, lipid droplets and liver disease

Yasmina Filali-MouncefCatherine HunterFederica RoccioStavroula ZagkouNicolas DupontCharlotte PrimardTassula Proikas-CezanneFulvio Reggiori
Abstract: Autophagic pathways cross with lipid homeostasis and thus provide energy and essential building blocks that are indispensable for liver functions. Energy deficiencies are compensated by breaking down lipid droplets (LDs), intracellular organelles that store neutral lipids, in part by a selective type of autophagy, referred to as lipophagy. The process of lipophagy does not appear to be properly regulated in fatty liver diseases (FLDs), an important risk factor for the development of hepatocellular carcinomas (HCC). Here we provide an overview on our current knowledge of the biogenesis and functions of LDs, and the mechanisms underlying their lysosomal turnover by autophagic processes. This review also focuses on nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), a specific type of FLD characterized by steatosis, chronic inflammation and cell death. Particular attention is paid to the role of macroautophagy and macrolipophagy in relation to the parenchymal and non-parenchymal cells of the liver in NASH, as this disease has been associated with inappropriate lipophagy in various cell types of the liver.
Keywords: Chaperone-mediated autophagy; fibrosis; hepatocellular carcinoma; macroautophagy; macrolipophagy; microautophagy; microlipophagy; nafld; nash; nonalcoholic fatty liver disease; nonalcoholic steatohepatitis.
PMID: 33794741; DOI:

ER-Phagy, ER Homeostasis, and ER Quality Control: Implications for Disease

Susan Ferro-NovickFulvio ReggioriJeffrey L Brodsky
Abstract: Lysosomal degradation of endoplasmic reticulum (ER) fragments by autophagy, termed ER-phagy or reticulophagy, occurs under normal as well as stress conditions. The recent discovery of multiple ER-phagy receptors has stimulated studies on the roles of ER-phagy. We discuss how the ER-phagy receptors and the cellular components that work with these receptors mediate two important functions: ER homeostasis and ER quality control. We highlight that ER-phagy plays an important role in alleviating ER expansion induced by ER stress, and acts as an alternative disposal pathway for misfolded proteins. We suggest that the latter function explains the emerging connection between ER-phagy and disease. Additional ER-phagy-associated functions and important unanswered questions are also discussed.
Keywords: autophagy receptor; endoplasmic reticulum; human disease; macro-ER-phagy; micro-ER-phagy; proteostasis; reticulophagy.
PMID: 33509650; DOI:

Re-emphasizing early Alzheimer’s disease pathology starting in select entorhinal neurons, with a special focus on mitophagy

Asgeir Kobro-FlatmoenMaria Jose Lagartos-DonateYahyah AmanPaul EdisonMenno P WitterEvandro F Fang
Abstract: The entorhinal-hippocampal system contains distinct networks subserving declarative memory. This system is selectively vulnerable to changes of ageing and pathological processes. The entorhinal cortex (EC) is a pivotal component of this memory system since it serves as the interface between the neocortex and the hippocampus. EC is heavily affected by the proteinopathies of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). These appear in a stereotypical spatiotemporal manner and include increased levels of intracellular amyloid-beta Aβ (iAβ), parenchymal deposition of Aβ plaques, and neurofibrillary tangles (NFTs) containing abnormally processed Tau. Increased levels of iAβ and the formation of NFTs are seen very early on in a population of neurons belonging to EC layer II (EC LII), and recent evidence leads us to believe that this population is made up of highly energy-demanding reelin-positive (RE+) projection neurons. Mitochondria are fundamental to the energy supply, metabolism, and plasticity of neurons. Evidence from AD postmortem brain tissues supports the notion that mitochondrial dysfunction is one of the initial pathological events in AD, and this is likely to take place in the vulnerable RE + EC LII neurons. Here we review and discuss these notions, anchored to the anatomy of AD, and formulate a hypothesis attempting to explain the vulnerability of RE + EC LII neurons to the formation of NFTs. We attempt to link impaired mitochondrial clearance to iAβ and signaling involving both apolipoprotein 4 and reelin, and argue for their relevance to the formation of NFTs specifically in RE + EC LII neurons during the prodromal stages of AD. We believe future studies on these interactions holds promise to advance our understanding of AD etiology and provide new ideas for drug development.
Keywords: Alzheimer’s disease; Entorhinal cortex; Medial temporal lobe; Mitochondria; Mitophagy; Reelin.
PMID: 33621703; DOI:

Membrane supply and remodeling during autophagosome biogenesis

Rubén Gómez-SánchezSharon A ToozeFulvio Reggiori
Abstract: The de novo generation of double-membrane autophagosomes is the hallmark of autophagy. The initial membranous precursor cisterna, the phagophore, is very likely generated by the fusion of vesicles and acts as a membrane seed for the subsequent expansion into an autophagosome. This latter step requires a massive convoy of lipids into the phagophore. In this review, we present recent advances in our understanding of the intracellular membrane sources and lipid delivery mechanisms, which principally rely on vesicular transport and membrane contact sites that contribute to autophagosome biogenesis. In this context, we discuss lipid biosynthesis and lipid remodeling events that play a crucial role in both phagophore nucleation and expansion.
Keywords: ATG proteins; Autophagy; Isolation membrane; Lipid source; Lipids; Membrane contact site; Membrane origin; Omegasome; Phagophore; Vesicular transport.
PMID: 33930785; DOI:

Guidelines for the use and interpretation of assays for monitoring autophagy (4th edition)

Daniel J. Klionsky, Amal Kamal Abdel-Aziz, Sara Abdelfatah, …, Chun-Kit Tong
Abstract: In 2008, we published the first set of guidelines for standardizing research in autophagy. Since then, this topic has received increasing attention, and many scientists have entered the field. Our knowledge base and relevant new technologies have also been expanding. Thus, it is important to formulate on a regular basis updated guidelines for monitoring autophagy in different organisms. Despite numerous reviews, there continues to be confusion regarding acceptable methods to evaluate autophagy, especially in multicellular eukaryotes. Here, we present a set of guidelines for investigators to select and interpret methods to examine autophagy and related processes, and for reviewers to provide realistic and reasonable critiques of reports that are focused on these processes. These guidelines are not meant to be a dogmatic set of rules, because the appropriateness of any assay largely depends on the question being asked and the system being used. Moreover, no individual assay is perfect for every situation, calling for the use of multiple techniques to properly monitor autophagy in each experimental setting. Finally, several core components of the autophagy machinery have been implicated in distinct autophagic processes (canonical and noncanonical autophagy), implying that genetic approaches to block autophagy should rely on targeting two or more autophagy-related genes that ideally participate in distinct steps of the pathway. Along similar lines, because multiple proteins involved in autophagy also regulate other cellular pathways including apoptosis, not all of them can be used as a specific marker for bona fide autophagic responses. Here, we critically discuss current methods of assessing autophagy and the information they can, or cannot, provide. Our ultimate goal is to encourage intellectual and technical innovation in the field.
Keywords: Autophagosome; cancer; flux; LC3; lysosome; macroautophagy; neurodegeneration; phagophore; stress; vacuole.
PMID: 33634751; DOI: