Inhibiting autophagy targets human leukemic stem cells and hypoxic AML blasts by disrupting mitochondrial homeostasis
Leukemia stem cells (LSCs) and therapy-resistant acute myeloid leukemia (AML) blasts contribute to the reinitiation of leukemia after remission, necessitating therapeutic interventions that target these populations. Autophagy is a prosurvival process that allows for cells to adapt to a variety of stressors. Blocking autophagy pharmacologically by using mechanistically distinct inhibitors induced apoptosis and prevented colony formation in primary human AML cells. The most effective inhibitor, bafilomycin A1 (Baf A1), also prevented the in vivo maintenance of AML LSCs in NSG mice. To understand why Baf A1 exerted the most dramatic effects on LSC survival, we evaluated mitochondrial function. Baf A1 reduced mitochondrial respiration and stabilized PTEN-induced kinase-1 (PINK-1), which initiates autophagy of mitochondria (mitophagy). Interestingly, with the autophagy inhibitor chloroquine, levels of enhanced cell death and reduced mitochondrial respiration phenocopied the effects of Baf A1 only when cultured in hypoxic conditions that mimic the marrow microenvironment (1% O2). This indicates that increased efficacy of autophagy inhibitors in inducing AML cell death can be achieved by concurrently inducing mitochondrial damage and mitophagy (pharmacologically or by hypoxic induction) and blocking mitochondrial degradation. In addition, prolonged exposure of AML cells to hypoxia induced autophagic flux and reduced chemosensitivity to cytarabine (Ara-C), which was reversed by autophagy inhibition. The combination of Ara-C with Baf A1 also decreased tumor burden in vivo. These findings demonstrate that autophagy is critical for mitochondrial homeostasis and survival of AML cells in hypoxia and support the development of autophagy inhibitors as novel therapeutic agents for AML.
Lysosomal proteolysis and autophagy require presenilin 1 and are disrupted by Alzheimer-related PS1 mutations
Macroautophagy is a lysosomal degradative pathway essential for neuron survival. Here, we show that macroautophagy requires the Alzheimer's disease (AD)-related protein presenilin-1 (PS1). In PS1 null blastocysts, neurons from mice hypomorphic for PS1 or conditionally depleted of PS1, substrate proteolysis and autophagosome clearance during macroautophagy are prevented as a result of a selective impairment of autolysosome acidification and cathepsin activation. These deficits are caused by failed PS1-dependent targeting of the v-ATPase V0a1 subunit to lysosomes. N-glycosylation of the V0a1 subunit, essential for its efficient ER-to-lysosome delivery, requires the selective binding of PS1 holoprotein to the unglycosylated subunit and the Sec61alpha/oligosaccharyltransferase complex. PS1 mutations causing early-onset AD produce a similar lysosomal/autophagy phenotype in fibroblasts from AD patients. PS1 is therefore essential for v-ATPase targeting to lysosomes, lysosome acidification, and proteolysis during autophagy. Defective lysosomal proteolysis represents a basis for pathogenic protein accumulations and neuronal cell death in AD and suggests previously unidentified therapeutic targets
Early cellular changes after blockage of chaperone-mediated autophagy
Cytosolic proteins can be selectively degraded in lysosomes by chaperone-mediated autophagy (CMA), an autophagic pathway maximally activated under stress. In previous works we have demonstrated the existence of a cross-talk between CMA and macroautophagy, the other stress-related autophagic pathway responsible for the "in bulk" degradation of whole regions of the cytosol and for organelle turnover. We found that chronic blockage of CMA, as the one described in aging cells, results in constitutive activation of macroautophagy, supporting that one pathway may compensate for the other. In this work we have investigated the series of early cellular events that precede the activation of macroautophagy upon CMA blockage and the consequences of this blockage on cellular homeostasis. Shortly after CMA blockage, we have found functional alterations in macroautophagy and the ubiquitin-proteasome system, that are progressively corrected as CMA blockage persists. Basal macroautophagic activity remains initially unaltered, but we observed a delay in its activation in response to serum removal, a well characterized inducer for this pathway. Slower degradation of short-lived proteins, and a transient decrease in some of the proteasome proteolytic activities are also evident in the first stages of CMA blockage. This global alteration of the proteolytic systems supports the coordinated functioning of all of them, and seems responsible for the intracellular accumulation of altered proteins. Based on the time-course of the cellular changes, we propose that a minimal threshold of these toxic products needs to accumulate in order to constitutively activate macroautophagy and thus return cellular homeostasis to normal.
Constitutive activation of chaperone-mediated autophagy in cells with impaired macroautophagy
Three different types of autophagy-macroautophagy, microautophagy, and chaperone-mediated autophagy (CMA)-contribute to degradation of intracellular components in lysosomes in mammalian cells. Although some level of basal macroautophagy and CMA activities has been described in different cell types and tissues, these two pathways are maximally activated under stress conditions. Activation of these two pathways is often sequential, suggesting the existence of some level of cross-talk between both stress-related autophagic pathways. In this work, we analyze the consequences of blockage of macroautophagy on CMA activity. Using mouse embryonic fibroblasts deficient in Atg5, an autophagy-related protein required for autophagosome formation, we have found that blockage of macroautophagy leads to up-regulation of CMA, even under basal conditions. Interestingly, different mechanisms contribute to the observed changes in CMA-related proteins and the consequent activation of CMA during basal and stress conditions in these macroautophagy-deficient cells. This work supports a direct cross-talk between these two forms of autophagy, and it identifies changes in the lysosomal compartment that underlie the basis for the communication between both autophagic pathways.
Loss of macroautophagy promotes or prevents fibroblast apoptosis depending on the death stimulus
Macroautophagy has been implicated as a mechanism of cell death. However, the relationship between this degradative pathway and cell death is unclear as macroautophagy has been shown recently to protect against apoptosis. To better define the interplay between these two critical cellular processes, we determined whether inhibition of macroautophagy could have both pro-apoptotic and anti-apoptotic effects in the same cell. Embryonic fibroblasts from mice with a knock-out of the essential macroautophagy gene atg5 were treated with activators of the extrinsic and intrinsic death pathways. Loss of macroautophagy sensitized these cells to caspase-dependent apoptosis from the death receptor ligands Fas and tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha). Atg5-/- mouse embryonic fibroblasts had increased activation of the mitochondrial death pathway in response to Fas/TNF-alpha in concert with decreased ATP levels. Fas/TNF-alpha treatment failed to up-regulate macroautophagy, and in fact, decreased activity at late time points. In contrast to their sensitization to Fas/TNF-alpha, Atg5-/- cells were resistant to death from menadione and UV light. In the absence of macroautophagy, an up-regulation of chaperone-mediated autophagy induced resistance to these stressors. These results demonstrate that inhibition of macroautophagy can promote or prevent apoptosis in the same cell and that the response is governed by the nature of the death stimulus and compensatory changes in other forms of autophagy. Experimental findings that an inhibition of macroautophagy blocks apoptosis do not prove that autophagy mediates cell death as this effect may result from the protective up-regulation of other autophagic pathways such as chaperone-mediated autophagy.
Dopamine-modified alpha-synuclein blocks chaperone-mediated autophagy
Altered degradation of alpha-synuclein (alpha-syn) has been implicated in the pathogenesis of Parkinson disease (PD). We have shown that alpha-syn can be degraded via chaperone-mediated autophagy (CMA), a selective lysosomal mechanism for degradation of cytosolic proteins. Pathogenic mutants of alpha-syn block lysosomal translocation, impairing their own degradation along with that of other CMA substrates. While pathogenic alpha-syn mutations are rare, alpha-syn undergoes posttranslational modifications, which may underlie its accumulation in cytosolic aggregates in most forms of PD. Using mouse ventral medial neuron cultures, SH-SY5Y cells in culture, and isolated mouse lysosomes, we have found that most of these posttranslational modifications of alpha-syn impair degradation of this protein by CMA but do not affect degradation of other substrates. Dopamine-modified alpha-syn, however, is not only poorly degraded by CMA but also blocks degradation of other substrates by this pathway. As blockage of CMA increases cellular vulnerability to stressors, we propose that dopamine-induced autophagic inhibition could explain the selective degeneration of PD dopaminergic neurons.
Altered dynamics of the lysosomal receptor for chaperone-mediated autophagy with age
Rates of autophagy, the mechanism responsible for lysosomal clearance of cellular components, decrease with age. We have previously described an age-related decline in chaperone-mediated autophagy (CMA), a selective form of autophagy, by which particular cytosolic proteins are delivered to lysosomes after binding to the lysosome-associated membrane protein type 2A (LAMP-2A), a receptor for this pathway. Rates of CMA decrease with age because of a decrease in the levels of LAMP-2A. In this work we have investigated the reasons for the reduced levels of LAMP-2A with age. While transcriptional rates of LAMP-2A remain unchanged with age, the dynamics and stability of the receptor in the lysosomal compartment are altered. The mobilization of the lysosomal lumenal LAMP-2A to the membrane when CMA is activated is altered in lysosomes from old animals, leading to the presence of an unstable pool of lumenal LAMP-2A. By contrast, the regulated cleavage of LAMP-2A at the lysosomal membrane is reduced owing to altered association of the receptor and the protease responsible for its cleavage to particular membrane microdomain regions. We conclude that age-related changes at the lysosomal membrane are responsible for the altered turnover of the CMA receptor in old organisms and the consequent decline in this pathway.
Lysosomal chat maintains the balance
The original idea that each protein follows a particular proteolytic pathway for its degradation is no longer supported. Instead, different proteolytic systems can simultaneously contribute to the degradation of a particular protein, or they can alternate in this task depending, for the most part, on the cellular conditions. It is thus reasonable to expect that some level of communication exists among different proteolytic systems to orchestrate these coordinated activities. Direct cross-talk between two forms of autophagy, macroautophagy and chaperone-mediated autophagy (CMA) has been recently demonstrated. Cells respond to blockage of CMA by upregulating macroautophagy. Although macroautophagy cannot completely substitute for the lack of CMA, the partial redundancy between both pathways allows some level of compensation, enough to maintain protein degradation and preserve cell homeostasis. Understanding the cross-talk among different autophagic pathways and with other proteolytic systems is important to predict the type of compensatory mechanisms that could be elicited in response to failure of one of these systems, and to understand the consequences that manipulating one of these pathways for therapeutic purposes could have on the activity of the other pathways.
Lysosome membrane lipid microdomains: novel regulators of chaperone-mediated autophagy
Chaperone-mediated autophagy (CMA) is a selective mechanism for the degradation of soluble cytosolic proteins in lysosomes. The limiting step of this type of autophagy is the binding of substrates to the lysosome-associated membrane protein type 2A (LAMP-2A). In this work, we identify a dynamic subcompartmentalization of LAMP-2A in the lysosomal membrane, which underlies the molecular basis for the regulation of LAMP-2A function in CMA. A percentage of LAMP-2A localizes in discrete lysosomal membrane regions during resting conditions, but it exits these regions during CMA activation. Disruption of these regions by cholesterol-depleting agents or expression of a mutant LAMP-2A excluded from these regions enhances CMA activity, whereas loading of lysosomes with cholesterol significantly reduces CMA. Organization of LAMP-2A into multimeric complexes, required for translocation of substrates into lysosomes via CMA, only occurs outside the lipid-enriched membrane microdomains, whereas the LAMP-2A located within these regions is susceptible to proteolytic cleavage and degradation. Our results support that changes in the dynamic distribution of LAMP-2A into and out of discrete microdomains of the lysosomal membrane contribute to regulate CMA.
Autophagy is disrupted in a knock-in mouse model of juvenile neuronal ceroid lipofuscinosis
Juvenile neuronal ceroid lipofuscinosis is caused by mutation of a novel, endosomal/lysosomal membrane protein encoded by CLN3. The observation that the mitochondrial ATPase subunit c protein accumulates in this disease suggests that autophagy, a pathway that regulates mitochondrial turnover, may be disrupted. To test this hypothesis, we examined the autophagic pathway in Cln3(Deltaex7/8) knock-in mice and CbCln3(Deltaex7/8) cerebellar cells, accurate genetic models of juvenile neuronal ceroid lipofuscinosis. In homozygous knock-in mice, we found that the autophagy marker LC3-II was increased, and mammalian target of rapamycin was down-regulated. Moreover, isolated autophagic vacuoles and lysosomes from homozygous knock-in mice were less mature in their ultrastructural morphology than the wild-type organelles, and subunit c accumulated in autophagic vacuoles. Intriguingly, we also observed subunit c accumulation in autophagic vacuoles in normal aging mice. Upon further investigation of the autophagic pathway in homozygous knock-in cerebellar cells, we found that LC3-positive vesicles were altered and overlap of endocytic and lysosomal dyes was reduced when autophagy was stimulated, compared with wildtype cells. Surprisingly, however, stimulation of autophagy did not significantly impact cell survival, but inhibition of autophagy led to cell death. Together these observations suggest that autophagy is disrupted in juvenile neuronal ceroid lipofuscinosis, likely at the level of autophagic vacuolar maturation, and that activation of autophagy may be a prosurvival feedback response in the disease process.