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: Phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K) catalyzes the production of phosphatidylinositol-3,4,5-triphosphate by phosphorylating phosphatidylinositol (PI), phosphatidylinositol-4-phosphate (PIP), and phosphatidylinositol-4,5-bisphosphate (PIP2). Growth factors and hormones trigger this phosphorylation event, which in turn coordinates cell growth, cell cycle entry, cell migration, and cell survival (1). PTEN reverses this process, and research studies have shown that the PI3K signaling pathway is constitutively activated in human cancers that have loss of function of PTEN (2). PI3Ks are composed of a catalytic subunit (p110) and a regulatory subunit. Various isoforms of the catalytic subunit (p110α, p110β, p110γ, and p110δ) have been isolated, and the regulatory subunits that associate with p110α, p110β, and p110δ are p85α and p85β (3). In contrast, p110γ associates with a p101 regulatory subunit that is unrelated to p85. Furthermore, p110γ is activated by βγ subunits of heterotrimeric G proteins (4).
Background: Two related serine/threonine kinases, UNC-51-like kinase 1 and 2 (ULK1, ULK2), were discovered as mammalian homologs of the C. elegans gene UNC-51 in which mutants exhibited abnormal axonal extension and growth (1-4). Both proteins are widely expressed and contain an amino-terminal kinase domain followed by a central proline/serine rich domain and a highly conserved carboxy-terminal domain. The roles of ULK1 and ULK2 in axon growth have been linked to studies showing that the kinases are localized to neuronal growth cones and are involved in endocytosis of critical growth factors, such as NGF (5). Yeast two-hybrid studies found ULK1/2 associated with modulators of the endocytic pathway, SynGAP and syntenin (6). Structural similarity of ULK1/2 has also been recognized with the yeast autophagy protein Atg1/Apg1 (7). Knockdown experiments using siRNA demonstrated that ULK1 is essential for autophagy (8), a catabolic process for the degradation of bulk cytoplasmic contents (9,10). It appears that Atg1/ULK1 can act as a convergence point for multiple signals that control autophagy (11), and can bind to several autophagy-related (Atg) proteins, regulating phosphorylation states and protein trafficking (12-16).
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 and can occur through the utilization of a number of autophagy cargo receptors (3-5). Autophagy cargo receptors contain an LC3-interacting region (LIR) required for interaction with Atg8/LC3 family members targeted to the autophagosome. SQSTM1/p62-like receptors (SLRs) are a family of autophagy cargo receptors that contain domains for binding to ubiquitin. This family includes prototypical member SQSTM1/p62, NBR1, NDP52, Optineurin, and TAX1BP1. Targets of SLRs include ubiquitylated protein aggregates (aggrephagy), organelles such as mitochondria (mitoophagy) and peroxisomes (pexophagy), and intracellular bacteria (xenophagy).Upon binding of cargo to these receptors, the complex is delivered to the autophagosome where both the cargo and receptor are degraded through the autophagic process. While some redundancy may exist among SLR family members, they can have unique activities. Many SLRs can have additional roles as scaffolding proteins for various signaling pathways. For example, SQSTM1/p62 interacts with KEAP1, a cytoplasmic inhibitor of NRF2, a key transcription factor involved in cellular responses to oxidative stress (6). Thus, accumulation of SQSTM1/p62 can lead to an increase in NRF2 activity.
Background: AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) is highly conserved from yeast to plants and animals and plays a key role in the regulation of energy homeostasis (1). AMPK is a heterotrimeric complex composed of a catalytic α subunit and regulatory β and γ subunits, each of which is encoded by two or three distinct genes (α1, 2; β1, 2; γ1, 2, 3) (2). The kinase is activated by an elevated AMP/ATP ratio due to cellular and environmental stress, such as heat shock, hypoxia, and ischemia (1). The tumor suppressor LKB1, in association with accessory proteins STRAD and MO25, phosphorylates AMPKα at Thr172 in the activation loop, and this phosphorylation is required for AMPK activation (3-5).AMPK phosphorylates a number of targets controlling cellular processes such as metabolism, cell growth, and autophagy (6). It suppresses the activity of the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR), that plays a key role in promoting cell growth. The regulatory associated protein of mTOR (Raptor) was identified as an mTOR binding partner that mediates mTOR signaling to downstream targets (7,8). Raptor binds to mTOR substrates, including 4E-BP1 and p70 S6 kinase, through their TOR signaling (TOS) motifs and is required for mTOR-mediated phosphorylation of these substrates (9,10). AMPK directly phosphorylates Raptor at Ser722/Ser792, and this phosphorylation is essential for inhibition of the raptor-containing mTOR complex 1 (mTORC1) and induces cell cycle arrest when cells are stressed for energy (11). AMPK also promotes autophagy by directly phosphorylating ULK1 (11,12). ULK1 is a Ser/Thr kinase required for the Initiation and formation of the autophagosome. AMPK, activated during low nutrient conditions, directly phosphorylates ULK1 at multiple sites including Ser317, Ser555, and Ser777 (11,12). Conversely, mTOR, which is a regulator of cell growth and an inhibitor of autophagy, phosphorylates ULK1 at Ser757 and disrupts the interaction between ULK1 and AMPK (11). AMPK can also directly phosphorylate Beclin-1, a component of the complex downstream of ULK1 in autophagosome formation that activates the class III phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase VPS34. AMPK phosphorylates Beclin-1 at Ser93 and Ser96 residues in human, which correspond to murine Ser91 and Ser94 (14).