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
(Macro)autophagy is a bulk degradation process that mediates the clearance of long-lived proteins and organelles. Autophagy is initiated by double-membraned structures, which engulf portions of cytoplasm. The resulting autophagosomes ultimately fuse with lysosomes, where their contents are degraded. Although the term autophagy was first used in 1963, the field has witnessed dramatic growth in the last 5 years, partly as a consequence of the discovery of key components of its cellular machinery. In this review we focus on mammalian autophagy, and we give an overview of the understanding of its machinery and the signaling cascades that regulate it. As recent studies have also shown that autophagy is critical in a range of normal human physiological processes, and defective autophagy is associated with diverse diseases, including neurodegeneration, lysosomal storage diseases, cancers, and Crohn's disease, we discuss the roles of autophagy in health and disease, while trying to critically evaluate if the coincidence between autophagy and these conditions is causal or an epiphenomenon. Finally, we consider the possibility of autophagy upregulation as a therapeutic approach for various conditions.
Mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) signalling and macroautophagy (henceforth autophagy) regulate numerous pathological and physiological processes including cellular responses to altered nutrient levels. However, the mechanisms regulating mTOR and autophagy remain incompletely understood. Lysosomes are dynamic intracellular organelles 1, 2 intimately involved both in the activation of mTOR complex 1 (mTORC1) signalling and in degrading autophagic substrates 3-8. Here we report that lysosomal positioning coordinates anabolic and catabolic responses to changes in nutrient availability by orchestrating early plasma membrane signalling events, mTORC1 signalling and autophagy. Activation of mTORC1 by nutrients correlates with its presence on peripheral lysosomes that are physically close to the upstream signalling modules, while starvation causes perinuclear clustering of lysosomes, driven by changes in intracellular pH (pHi). Lysosomal positioning regulates mTORC1 signalling, which, in turn, influences autophagosome formation. Lysosome positioning also influences autophagosome-lysosome fusion rates, and thus controls autophagic flux by acting both at the initiation and termination stages of the process. Our findings provide a fundamental physiological role for the dynamic state of lysosomal positioning in cells as a coordinator of mTORC1 signalling with autophagic flux.
An expression screen of a rat cDNA library for sequences encoding Golgi-localized integral membrane proteins identified a protein with an apparent novel topology, i.e. with both an N-terminal transmembrane domain and a C-terminal glycosyl-phosphatidylinositol (GPI) anchor. Our data are consistent with this. Thus, the protein would have a topology that, in mammalian cells, is shared only by a minor, but pathologically important, topological isoform of the prion protein (PrP). The human orthologue of this protein has been described previously (BST-2 or HM1.24 antigen) as a cell surface molecule that appears to be involved in early pre-B-cell development and which is present at elevated levels at the surface of myeloma cells. We show that rat BST-2/HM1.24 has both a cell surface and an intracellular (juxtanuclear) location and is efficiently internalized from the cell surface. We also show that the cell surface pool of BST-2/HM1.24 is predominantly present in the apical plasma membrane of polarized cells. The fact that rat BST-2/HM1.24 apparently possesses a GPI anchor led us to speculate that it might exist in cholesterol-rich lipid microdomains (lipid rafts) at the plasma membrane. Data from several experiments are consistent with this localization. We present a model in which BST-2/HM1.24 serves to link adjacent lipid rafts within the plasma membrane.
Cell senescence is an important tumour suppressor mechanism and driver of ageing. Both functions are dependent on the development of the senescent phenotype, which involves an overproduction of pro‐inflammatory and pro‐oxidant signals. However, the exact mechanisms regulating these phenotypes remain poorly understood. Here, we show the critical role of mitochondria in cellular senescence. In multiple models of senescence, absence of mitochondria reduced a spectrum of senescence effectors and phenotypes while preserving ATP production via enhanced glycolysis. Global transcriptomic analysis by RNA sequencing revealed that a vast number of senescent‐associated changes are dependent on mitochondria, particularly the pro‐inflammatory phenotype. Mechanistically, we show that the ATM, Akt and mTORC1 phosphorylation cascade integrates signals from the DNA damage response (DDR) towards PGC‐1β‐dependent mitochondrial biogenesis, contributing to a ROS‐mediated activation of the DDR and cell cycle arrest. Finally, we demonstrate that the reduction in mitochondrial content in vivo, by either mTORC1 inhibition or PGC‐1β deletion, prevents senescence in the ageing mouse liver. Our results suggest that mitochondria are a candidate target for interventions to reduce the deleterious impact of senescence in ageing tissues.
SummaryThe two main routes that cells use for degrading intracellular proteins are the ubiquitin-proteasome and autophagy-lysosome pathways, which have been thought to have largely distinct clients. Here, we show that autophagy inhibition increases levels of proteasome substrates. This is largely due to p62 (also called A170/SQSTM1) accumulation after autophagy inhibition. Excess p62 inhibits the clearance of ubiquitinated proteins destined for proteasomal degradation by delaying their delivery to the proteasome's proteases. Our data show that autophagy inhibition, which was previously believed to only affect long-lived proteins, will also compromise the ubiquitin-proteasome system. This will lead to increased levels of short-lived regulatory proteins, like p53, as well as the accumulation of aggregation-prone proteins, with predicted deleterious consequences.
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