In 2008 we published the first set of guidelines for standardizing research in autophagy. Since then, research on this topic has continued to accelerate, and many new scientists have entered the field. Our knowledge base and relevant new technologies have also been expanding. Accordingly, it is important to update these guidelines for monitoring autophagy in different organisms. Various reviews have described the range of assays that have been used for this purpose. Nevertheless, there continues to be confusion regarding acceptable methods to measure autophagy, especially in multicellular eukaryotes. A key point that needs to be emphasized is that there is a difference between measurements that monitor the numbers or volume of autophagic elements (e.g., autophagosomes or autolysosomes) at any stage of the autophagic process vs. those that measure flux through the autophagy pathway (i.e., the complete process); thus, a block in macroautophagy that results in autophagosome accumulation needs to be differentiated from stimuli that result in increased autophagic activity, defined as increased autophagy induction coupled with increased delivery to, and degradation within, lysosomes (in most higher eukaryotes and some protists such as Dictyostelium) or the vacuole (in plants and fungi). In other words, it is especially important that investigators new to the field understand that the appearance of more autophagosomes does not necessarily equate with more autophagy. In fact, in many cases, autophagosomes accumulate because of a block in trafficking to lysosomes without a concomitant change in autophagosome biogenesis, whereas an increase in autolysosomes may reflect a reduction in degradative activity. Here, we present a set of guidelines for the selection and interpretation of methods for use by investigators who aim to examine macroautophagy and related processes, as well as for reviewers who need to provide realistic and reasonable critiques of papers that are focused on these processes. These guidelines are not meant to be a formulaic set of rules, because the appropriate assays depend in part on the question being asked and the system being used. In addition, we emphasize that no individual assay is guaranteed to be the most appropriate one in every situation, and we strongly recommend the use of multiple assays to monitor autophagy. In these guidelines, we consider these various methods of assessing autophagy and what information can, or cannot, be obtained from them. Finally, by discussing the merits and limits of particular autophagy assays, we hope to encourage technical innovation in the field
Autophagy, or cellular self-digestion, is a cellular pathway involved in protein and organelle degradation, with an astonishing number of connections to human disease and physiology. For example, autophagic dysfunction is associated with cancer, neurodegeneration, microbial infection and ageing. Paradoxically, although autophagy is primarily a protective process for the cell, it can also play a role in cell death. Understanding autophagy may ultimately allow scientists and clinicians to harness this process for the purpose of improving human health.At first glance, it may seem perplexing that a process of cellular self-eating could be beneficial. In its simplest form, however, autophagy probably represents a single cell's adaptation to starvation-if there is no food available in the surroundings, a cell is forced to break down part of its own reserves to stay alive until the situation improves. In single-cell organisms such as yeasts, this starvation response is one of the primary functions of autophagy, but in fact this role extends up through to humans. For example, even on a day-to-day basis, autophagy is activated between meals in organs such as the liver to maintain its metabolic functions, supplying amino acids and energy through catabolism 1,2 .There are various types of autophagy, including micro-and macroautophagy, as well as chaperone-mediated autophagy (CMA), and they differ in their mechanisms and functions ( Fig. 1) 3,4 . Both micro-and macroautophagy have the capacity to engulf large structures through both selective and non-selective mechanisms, whereas CMA degrades only soluble proteins, albeit in a selective manner. The capacity for large-scale degradation is important in autophagic function, but it carries a certain risk, because unregulated degradation of the cytoplasm is likely to be lethal. On the other hand, basal levels of autophagy are important for maintaining normal cellular homeostasis. Thus, it is important that autophagy be tightly regulated (Fig. 2) so that it is induced when needed, but otherwise maintained at a basal level. Although a complete picture of autophagy regulation is not available, many aspects have been covered in recent reviews 5-8 .Both the non-selective and selective nature of autophagy, as well as basal and induced levels, are important in regard to the role of this process in human health and disease. Perhaps the most fundamental point is that either too little or too much autophagy can be deleterious, a Autophagy in cell survival and cell deathThe pro-survival function of autophagy has been demonstrated at the cellular and organismal level in different contexts, including during nutrient and growth factor deprivation, endoplasmic reticulum stress, development, microbial infection, and diseases characterized by the accumulation of protein aggregates 8-11 . This pro-survival function is generally believed to be adaptive, but, in the context of cancer, is potentially maladaptive 12 . Metabolic stress is a common feature of the tumour microenvironment and m...
The intracellular storage and utilization of lipids are critical to maintain cellular energy homeostasis. During nutrient deprivation, cellular lipids stored as triglycerides in lipid droplets are hydrolysed into fatty acids for energy. A second cellular response to starvation is the induction of autophagy, which delivers intracellular proteins and organelles sequestered in double-membrane vesicles (autophagosomes) to lysosomes for degradation and use as an energy source. Lipolysis and autophagy share similarities in regulation and function but are not known to be interrelated. Here we show a previously unknown function for autophagy in regulating intracellular lipid stores (macrolipophagy). Lipid droplets and autophagic components associated during nutrient deprivation, and inhibition of autophagy in cultured hepatocytes and mouse liver increased triglyceride storage in lipid droplets. This study identifies a critical function for autophagy in lipid metabolism that could have important implications for human diseases with lipid over-accumulation such as those that comprise the metabolic syndrome.Free fatty acids (FFAs) are taken up by hepatocytes and converted into triglycerides (TGs) for storage with cholesterol in lipid droplets (LDs) 1 . LD-sequestered TGs continually undergo hydrolysis, generating FFAs that are predominantly re-esterified back into TGs for storage 1,
Research in autophagy continues to accelerate,(1) and as a result many new scientists are entering the field. Accordingly, it is important to establish a standard set of criteria for monitoring macroautophagy in different organisms. Recent reviews have described the range of assays that have been used for this purpose.(2,3) There are many useful and convenient methods that can be used to monitor macroautophagy in yeast, but relatively few in other model systems, and there is much confusion regarding acceptable methods to measure macroautophagy in higher eukaryotes. A key point that needs to be emphasized is that there is a difference between measurements that monitor the numbers of autophagosomes versus those that measure flux through the autophagy pathway; thus, a block in macroautophagy that results in autophagosome accumulation needs to be differentiated from fully functional autophagy that includes delivery to, and degradation within, lysosomes (in most higher eukaryotes) or the vacuole (in plants and fungi). Here, we present a set of guidelines for the selection and interpretation of the methods that can be used by investigators who are attempting to examine macroautophagy and related processes, as well as by reviewers who need to provide realistic and reasonable critiques of papers that investigate these processes. This set of guidelines is not meant to be a formulaic set of rules, because the appropriate assays depend in part on the question being asked and the system being used. In addition, we emphasize that no individual assay is guaranteed to be the most appropriate one in every situation, and we strongly recommend the use of multiple assays to verify an autophagic response.
Aberrant alpha-synuclein degradation is implicated in Parkinson's disease pathogenesis because the protein accumulates in the Lewy inclusion bodies associated with the disease. Little is known, however, about the pathways by which wild-type alpha-synuclein is normally degraded. We found that wild-type alpha-synuclein was selectively translocated into lysosomes for degradation by the chaperone-mediated autophagy pathway. The pathogenic A53T and A30P alpha-synuclein mutants bound to the receptor for this pathway on the lysosomal membrane, but appeared to act as uptake blockers, inhibiting both their own degradation and that of other substrates. These findings may underlie the toxic gain-of-function by the mutants.
Mammalian aging can be delayed with genetic, dietary and pharmacologic approaches. Given that the elderly population is dramatically increasing and that aging is the greatest risk factor for a majority of chronic diseases driving both morbidity and mortality, it is critical to expand Geroscience research directed at extending human healthspan.
The heterogeneity of exosomal populations has hindered our understanding of their biogenesis, molecular composition, biodistribution, and functions. By employing asymmetric-flow field-flow fractionation (AF4), we identified two exosome subpopulations (large exosome vesicles, Exo-L, 90-120 nm; small exosome vesicles, Exo-S, 60-80 nm) and discovered an abundant population of non-membranous nanoparticles termed “exomeres” (~35 nm). Exomere proteomic profiling revealed an enrichment in metabolic enzymes and hypoxia, microtubule and coagulation proteins and specific pathways, such as glycolysis and mTOR signaling. Exo-S and Exo-L contained proteins involved in endosomal function and secretion pathways, and mitotic spindle and IL-2/STAT5 signaling pathways, respectively. Exo-S, Exo-L, and exomeres each had unique N-glycosylation, protein, lipid, and DNA and RNA profiles and biophysical properties. These three nanoparticle subsets demonstrated diverse organ biodistribution patterns, suggesting distinct biological functions. This study demonstrates that AF4 can serve as an improved analytical tool for isolating and addressing the complexities of heterogeneous nanoparticle subpopulations.
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