Background: Autophagy is a catabolic process for the autophagosome-lysosomal degradation of bulk cytoplasmic contents (1, 2). Selective autophagy targets the degradation of distinct sets of substrates and organelles (3-5). One of the best studied examples of selective autophagy involves the clearance of damaged mitochondria through a process called mitophagy. Several pathways have been described for various contexts of mitophagy, including the FUNDC1 pathway, the BNIP3 and BNIP3L/Nix pathway, and the PINK1/Parkin pathway. FUNDC1 is a mitochondrial protein that is phosphorylated by the autophagy kinase ULK1 and regulates hypoxia induced mitophagy (6, 7). BNIP3L/Nix and BNIP3 are members of the Bcl-2 family of apoptosis regulators that are expressed on mitochondria, induced by hypoxia, and have have been shown to play a role in mitophagy (8). BNIP3L/Nix is also important in the autophagic maturation of erythroid cells (9). FUNDC1, BNIP3 and BNIP3L/Nix bind to LC3 family members, targeting the mitochondria to the autophagosome.Non-hypoxic induction of mitophagy can be regulated by the PINK1/Parkin pathway, which plays causative roles in neurodegenerative disease, most notably Parkinson’s disease (10, 11). PINK1 is a mitochondrial serine/threonine kinase that is stabilized on the outer mitochondrial membrane of damaged mitochondria. Substrates of PINK1 include the E3 ubiquitin ligase Parkin and ubiquitin itself (12-14). Phosphorylation of Parkin as well as binding to phosphorylated ubiquitin leads to accumulation of ubiquitinated chains on multiple mitochondrial proteins. Ubiquitinated proteins are recognized by selective cargo receptors including SQSTM1/p62, Optineurin, and NDP52 (15-16). Autophagy cargo receptors contain an LC3-interacting region (LIR) required for binding to Atg8/LC3 family members and targeting to the autophagosome (3).
Background: Ubiquitin is a conserved polypeptide unit that plays an important role in the ubiquitin-proteasome pathway. Ubiquitin can be covalently linked to many cellular proteins by the ubiquitination process, which targets proteins for degradation by the 26S proteasome. Three components are involved in the target protein-ubiquitin conjugation process. Ubiquitin is first activated by forming a thiolester complex with the activation component E1; the activated ubiquitin is subsequently transferred to the ubiquitin-carrier protein E2, then from E2 to ubiquitin ligase E3 for final delivery to the epsilon-NH2 of the target protein lysine residue (1-3). The ubiquitin-proteasome pathway has been implicated in a wide range of normal biological processes and in disease-related abnormalities. Several proteins such as IκB, p53, cdc25A, and Bcl-2 have been shown to be targets for the ubiquitin-proteasome process as part of regulation of cell cycle progression, differentiation, cell stress response, and apoptosis (4-7).