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Concept: Autophagy


Macroautophagy is a conserved degradative pathway and its deterioration is linked to disturbances in cellular proteostasis and multiple diseases. Here, we show that the RAB GTPase RAB18 modulates autophagy in primary human fibroblasts. The knockdown of RAB18 results in a decreased autophagic activity, while its overexpression enhances the degradative pathway. Importantly, this function of RAB18 is dependent on RAB3GAP1 and RAB3GAP2, which might act as RAB GEFs and stimulate the activity of the RAB GTPase. Moreover, the knockdown of RAB18 deteriorates proteostasis and results in the intracellular accumulation of ubiquitinated degradation-prone proteins. Thus, the RAB GTPase RAB18 is a positive modulator of autophagy and is relevant for the maintenance of cellular proteostasis.

Concepts: Fibroblast, Modulation, ACT, GTPase, Autophagy


During the intracellular process of macroautophagy (hereafter autophagy), a membrane bound organelle, the autophagosome, is generated de novo. The remodeling of the autophagic membrane during the lifecycle of the organelle is a complex multistep process and involves several changes in the topology of the autophagic membrane. Here, we focus on the final step of autophagosome formation, the closure of the phagophore, during which the inner and outer autophagic membranes become separate entities. We argue that this topological membrane transformation is a membrane scission event. Surprisingly, not a single recent review describes this substep as membrane scission (or membrane fission). In contrast, a number of publications imply that membrane fusion is involved. We discuss the potential sources for misinterpretation and recommend to consistently use the unambiguous term “membrane scission”.

Concepts: Mathematics, Cell membrane, Organelle, Geometry, Biological membrane, Metric space, Closed set, Autophagy


The mechanism regulating Atg1 kinase activity for the initiation of selective macroautophagy (hereafter autophagy) under nutrient-rich conditions has been a long-standing question. Canonically in yeast, nutrient starvation or rapamycin treatment repress TOR complex 1 and stimulate the Atg1 complex (including at least Atg1, Atg13, Atg17, Atg29 and Atg31), which allows the recruitment of downstream autophagy-related (Atg) components to the phagophore assembly site (PAS), culminating in phagophore formation, and, subsequently, autophagosome biogenesis. Atg1 also functions under conditions promoting selective autophagy that do not necessarily require nutrient deprivation for induction. However, there has been some debate as to whether Atg1 catalytic activity plays a more important role under conditions of nutrient starvation-induced autophagy (i.e., bulk autophagy) versus selective autophagy (e.g., the cytoplasm-to-vacuole targeting [Cvt] pathway). A recent paper by Kamber and colleagues investigates the mechanism regulating Atg1 activity during selective autophagy.

Concepts: Enzyme, Catalysis, Protein kinase, Catalytic converter, Nitrogen, Chemical equilibrium, Initiation, Autophagy


The autophagy pathway known also as macroautophagy (herein referred to as autophagy) is characterized by the formation of double-membrane organelles that capture cytosolic material. Based on pathway termination alternatives, autophagy has been divided into degradative and secretory. During degradative autophagy, autophagosomes typically fuse with lysosomes upon which the sequestered material is degraded. During secretory autophagy, instead of degradation the sequestered cargo is subjected to active secretion or passive release. In this review, we focus on the mechanisms of secretion/passive release of the potent pro-inflammatory cytokine IL-1β, as a prototypical leaderless cytosolic protein cargo studied in the context of secretory autophagy.

Concepts: Cell nucleus, Cell, Mitochondrion, Cytosol, Golgi apparatus, Organelle, Endoplasmic reticulum, Autophagy


Global climate change, increasingly erratic weather and a burgeoning global population are significant threats to the sustainability of future crop production. There is an urgent need for the development of robust measures that enable crops to withstand the uncertainty of climate change whilst still producing maximum yields. Resurrection plants possess the unique ability to withstand desiccation for prolonged periods, can be restored upon watering and represent great potential for the development of stress tolerant crops. Here, we describe the remarkable stress characteristics of Tripogon loliiformis, an uncharacterised resurrection grass and close relative of the economically important cereals, rice, sorghum, and maize. We show that T. loliiformis survives extreme environmental stress by implementing autophagy to prevent Programmed Cell Death. Notably, we identified a novel role for trehalose in the regulation of autophagy in T.loliiformis. Transcriptome, Gas Chromatography Mass Spectrometry, immunoblotting and confocal microscopy analyses directly linked the accumulation of trehalose with the onset of autophagy in dehydrating and desiccated T. loliiformis shoots. These results were supported in vitro with the observation of autophagosomes in trehalose treated T. loliiformis leaves; autophagosomes were not detected in untreated samples. Presumably, once induced, autophagy promotes desiccation tolerance in T.loliiformis, by removal of cellular toxins to suppress programmed cell death and the recycling of nutrients to delay the onset of senescence. These findings illustrate how resurrection plants manipulate sugar metabolism to promote desiccation tolerance and may provide candidate genes that are potentially useful for the development of stress tolerant crops.

Concepts: DNA repair, Climate, Weather, Climate change, Programmed cell death, Solar variation, Thermohaline circulation, Autophagy


It is controversial whether cells truly die via autophagy or whether - in dying cells - autophagy is merely an innocent bystander or a well-intentioned ‘Good Samaritan’ trying to prevent inevitable cellular demise. However, there is increasing evidence that the genetic machinery of autophagy may be essential for cell death in certain settings. We recently identified a novel form of autophagy gene-dependent cell death, termed autosis, which is mediated by the Na(+),K(+)-ATPase pump and has unique morphological features. High levels of cellular autophagy, as occurs with treatment with autophagy-inducing peptides, starvation, or in vivo during certain types of ischemia, can trigger autosis. These findings provide insights into the mechanisms and strategies for prevention of cell death during extreme stress conditions.Cell Death and Differentiation advance online publication, 26 September 2014; doi:10.1038/cdd.2014.143.

Concepts: DNA, Protein, Gene, Genetics, Gene expression, Organelle, Programmed cell death, Autophagy


Autophagy has an important role in cellular homeostasis by degrading and recycling cytotoxic components. Ubiquitination is known to target cargoes for autophagy; however, key components of this pathway remain elusive. Here we performed an RNAi screen to uncover ubiquitin modifiers that are required for starvation-induced macroautophagy in mammalian cells. Our screen uncovered BRUCE/Apollon/Birc6, an IAP protein, as a new autophagy regulator. Depletion of BRUCE leads to defective fusion of autophagosomes and lysosomes. Mechanistically, BRUCE selectively interacts with two ATG8 members GABARAP and GABARAPL1, as well as with Syntaxin 17, which are all critical regulators of autophagosome-lysosome fusion. In addition, BRUCE colocalizes with LAMP2. Interestingly, a non-catalytic N-terminal BRUCE fragment that is sufficient to bind GABARAP/GABARAPL1 and Syntaxin 17, and to colocalize with LAMP2, rescues autolysosome formation in Bruce -/- cells. Thus, BRUCE promotes autolysosome formation independently of its ubiquitin-conjugating activity and is a regulator of both macroautophagy and apoptosis.

Concepts: Proteins, Protein, Protein structure, Mitochondrion, Organelle, Posttranslational modification, Programmed cell death, Autophagy


Macroautophagy is thought to protect against apoptosis; however, underlying mechanisms are poorly understood. We examined how autophagy affects canonical death receptor-induced mitochondrial outer membrane permeabilization (MOMP) and apoptosis. MOMP occurs at variable times in a population of cells, and this is delayed by autophagy. Additionally, autophagy leads to inefficient MOMP, after which some cells die through a slower process than typical apoptosis and, surprisingly, can recover and divide afterward. These effects are associated with p62/SQSTM1-dependent selective autophagy causing PUMA levels to be kept low through an indirect mechanism whereby autophagy affects constitutive levels of PUMA mRNA. PUMA depletion is sufficient to prevent the sensitization to apoptosis that occurs when autophagy is blocked. Autophagy can therefore control apoptosis via a key regulator that makes MOMP faster and more efficient, thus ensuring rapid completion of apoptosis. This identifies a molecular mechanism whereby cell-fate decisions can be determined by autophagy.

Concepts: DNA, Death, Organelle, Effect, Apoptosis, Programmed cell death, Autophagy


Macroautophagy, initially described as a non-selective nutrient recycling process, is essential for the removal of multiple cellular components. In the past three decades, selective autophagy has been characterized as a highly regulated and specific degradation pathway for removal of unwanted cytosolic components and damaged and/or superfluous organelles. Here, we discuss different types of selective autophagy, emphasizing the role of ligand receptors and scaffold proteins in providing cargo specificity, and highlight unanswered questions in the field.

Concepts: Cell nucleus, Cell, Signal transduction, Organelle, Ribosome, Cell biology, Receptor, Autophagy


Mitochondria are an essential source of ATP for cellular function, but when damaged, mitochondria generate a plethora of stress signals, which lead to cellular dysfunction and eventually programmed cell death. Thus, a major component of maintaining cellular homeostasis is the recognition and removal of dysfunctional mitochondria through autophagy-mediated degradation, i.e., mitophagy. Mitophagy further constitutes a developmental program, and undergoes a high degree of crosstalk with apoptosis. Reduced mitochondrial quality control is linked to disease pathogenesis, suggesting the importance of process elucidation as a clinical target. Recent work has revealed multiple mitophagy programs that operate independently or undergo crosstalk, and require modulated autophagy receptor activities at outer membranes of mitochondria. Here, we review these mitophagy programs, focusing on pathway mechanisms which recognize and target mitochondria for sequestration by autophagosomes, as well as mechanisms controlling pathway activities. Furthermore, we provide an introduction to the currently available methods for detecting mitophagy.

Concepts: Cell, Adenosine triphosphate, Organelle, Apoptosis, Prokaryote, Computer program, Programmed cell death, Autophagy