Abstract: The year of 2013 marked the 50th anniversary of C de Duve's coining of the term "autophagy" for the degradation process of cytoplasmic constituents in the lysosome/vacuole. This year we regretfully lost this great scientist, who contributed much during the early years of research to the field of autophagy. Soon after the discovery of lysosomes by de Duve, electron microscopy revealed autophagy as a means of delivering intracellular components to the lysosome. For a long time after the discovery of autophagy, studies failed to yield any significant advances at a molecular level in our understanding of this fundamental pathway of degradation. The first breakthrough was made in the early 1990s, as autophagy was discovered in yeast subjected to starvation by microscopic observation. Next, a genetic effort to address the poorly understood problem of autophagy led to the discovery of many autophagy-defective mutants. Subsequent identification of autophagy-related genes in yeast revealed unique sets of molecules involved in membrane dynamics during autophagy. ATG homologs were subsequently found in various organisms, indicating that the fundamental mechanism of autophagy is well conserved among eukaryotes. These findings brought revolutionary changes to research in this field. For instance, the last 10 years have seen remarkable progress in our understanding of autophagy, not only in terms of the molecular mechanisms of autophagy, but also with regard to its broad physiological roles and relevance to health and disease. Now our knowledge of autophagy is dramatically expanding day by day. Here, the historical landmarks underpinning the explosion of autophagy research are described with a particular focus on the contribution of yeast as a model organism.
Pub.: 25 Dec '13, Pinned: 03 Oct '16
Abstract: In selective autophagy, autophagosomes sequester specific targets to be degraded in lysosomes/vacuoles. A new study now provides critical insights into the mechanism by which the autophagosomal membrane closely sticks to the target to avoid incorporating material that should not be degraded.
Pub.: 18 Jun '14, Pinned: 03 Oct '16
Abstract: Autophagy is a fundamental function of eukaryotic cells and is well conserved from yeast to humans. The most remarkable feature of autophagy is the synthesis of double membrane-bound compartments that sequester materials to be degraded in lytic compartments, a process that seems to be mechanistically distinct from conventional membrane traffic. The discovery of autophagy in yeast and the genetic tractability of this organism have allowed us to identify genes that are responsible for this process, which has led to the explosive growth of this research field seen today. Analyses of autophagy-related (Atg) proteins have unveiled dynamic and diverse aspects of mechanisms that underlie membrane formation during autophagy.
Pub.: 06 Jun '09, Pinned: 03 Oct '16
Abstract: Autophagy is a degradation process accompanied by dynamic membrane organization. In the yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, about 30 ATG (autophagy-related) genes have been identified as important genes for autophagy. Among them, 17 are indispensable for formation of the autophagosome, an organelle enclosed by a double lipid bilayer during starvation-induced autophagy. Recently, a central structure for autophagosome generation, termed the pre-autophagosomal structure, was identified. Despite intensive study, many questions regarding the mechanisms underlying autophagosome formation remain unanswered. In this review, we will give an overview of recent studies on the mechanisms of autophagosome formation and discuss these unresolved questions.
Pub.: 27 Mar '07, Pinned: 03 Oct '16
Abstract: Autophagy involves de novo formation of double membrane-bound structures called autophagosomes, which engulf material to be degraded in lytic compartments. Atg8 is a ubiquitin-like protein required for this process in Saccharomyces cerevisiae that can be conjugated to the lipid phosphatidylethanolamine by a ubiquitin-like system. Here, we show using an in vitro system that Atg8 mediates the tethering and hemifusion of membranes, which are evoked by the lipidation of the protein and reversibly modulated by the deconjugation enzyme Atg4. Mutational analyses suggest that membrane tethering and hemifusion observed in vitro represent an authentic function of Atg8 in autophagosome formation in vivo. In addition, electron microscopic analyses indicate that these functions of Atg8 are involved in the expansion of autophagosomal membranes. Our results provide further insights into the mechanisms underlying the unique membrane dynamics of autophagy and also indicate the functional versatility of ubiquitin-like proteins.
Pub.: 17 Jul '07, Pinned: 13 Oct '16
Abstract: Little is known about the protein constituents of autophagosome membranes in mammalian cells. Here we demonstrate that the rat microtubule-associated protein 1 light chain 3 (LC3), a homologue of Apg8p essential for autophagy in yeast, is associated to the autophagosome membranes after processing. Two forms of LC3, called LC3-I and -II, were produced post-translationally in various cells. LC3-I is cytosolic, whereas LC3-II is membrane bound. The autophagic vacuole fraction prepared from starved rat liver was enriched with LC3-II. Immunoelectron microscopy on LC3 revealed specific labelling of autophagosome membranes in addition to the cytoplasmic labelling. LC3-II was present both inside and outside of autophagosomes. Mutational analyses suggest that LC3-I is formed by the removal of the C-terminal 22 amino acids from newly synthesized LC3, followed by the conversion of a fraction of LC3-I into LC3-II. The amount of LC3-II is correlated with the extent of autophagosome formation. LC3-II is the first mammalian protein identified that specifically associates with autophagosome membranes.
Pub.: 04 Nov '00, Pinned: 13 Oct '16
Abstract: Macroautophagy mediates the bulk degradation of cytoplasmic components. It accounts for the degradation of most long-lived proteins: cytoplasmic constituents, including organelles, are sequestered into autophagosomes, which subsequently fuse with lysosomes, where degradation occurs. Although the possible involvement of autophagy in homeostasis, development, cell death, and pathogenesis has been repeatedly pointed out, systematic in vivo analysis has not been performed in mammals, mainly because of a limitation of monitoring methods. To understand where and when autophagy occurs in vivo, we have generated transgenic mice systemically expressing GFP fused to LC3, which is a mammalian homologue of yeast Atg8 (Aut7/Apg8) and serves as a marker protein for autophagosomes. Fluorescence microscopic analyses revealed that autophagy is differently induced by nutrient starvation in most tissues. In some tissues, autophagy even occurs actively without starvation treatments. Our results suggest that the regulation of autophagy is organ dependent and the role of autophagy is not restricted to the starvation response. This transgenic mouse model is a useful tool to study mammalian autophagy.
Pub.: 31 Dec '03, Pinned: 13 Oct '16
Abstract: At birth the trans-placental nutrient supply is suddenly interrupted, and neonates face severe starvation until supply can be restored through milk nutrients. Here, we show that neonates adapt to this adverse circumstance by inducing autophagy. Autophagy is the primary means for the degradation of cytoplasmic constituents within lysosomes. The level of autophagy in mice remains low during embryogenesis; however, autophagy is immediately upregulated in various tissues after birth and is maintained at high levels for 3-12 h before returning to basal levels within 1-2 days. Mice deficient for Atg5, which is essential for autophagosome formation, appear almost normal at birth but die within 1 day of delivery. The survival time of starved Atg5-deficient neonates (approximately 12 h) is much shorter than that of wild-type mice (approximately 21 h) but can be prolonged by forced milk feeding. Atg5-deficient neonates exhibit reduced amino acid concentrations in plasma and tissues, and display signs of energy depletion. These results suggest that the production of amino acids by autophagic degradation of 'self' proteins, which allows for the maintenance of energy homeostasis, is important for survival during neonatal starvation.
Pub.: 05 Nov '04, Pinned: 13 Oct '16