Promoting autophagic clearance: viable therapeutic targets in Alzheimer's disease.
ABSTRACT: Many neurodegenerative disorders are characterized by the aberrant accumulation of aggregate-prone proteins. Alzheimer's disease (AD) is associated with the buildup of ?-amyloid peptides and tau, which aggregate into extracellular plaques and neurofibrillary tangles, respectively. Multiple studies have linked dysfunctional intracellular degradation mechanisms with AD pathogenesis. One such pathway is the autophagy-lysosomal system, which involves the delivery of large protein aggregates/inclusions and organelles to lysosomes through the formation, trafficking, and degradation of double-membrane structures known as autophagosomes. Converging data suggest that promoting autophagic degradation, either by inducing autophagosome formation or enhancing lysosomal digestion, provides viable therapeutic strategies. In this review, we discuss compounds that can augment autophagic clearance and may ameliorate disease-related pathology in cell and mouse models of AD. Canonical autophagy induction is associated with multiple signaling cascades; on the one hand, the best characterized is mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR). Accordingly, multiple mTOR-dependent and mTOR-independent drugs that stimulate autophagy have been tested in preclinical models. On the other hand, there is a growing list of drugs that can enhance the later stages of autophagic flux by stabilizing microtubule-mediated trafficking, promoting lysosomal fusion, or bolstering lysosomal enzyme function. Although altering the different stages of autophagy provides many potential targets for AD therapeutic interventions, it is important to consider how autophagy drugs might also disturb the delicate balance between autophagosome formation and lysosomal degradation.
Project description:Macroautophagy/autophagy is a proteolytic pathway that is involved in both bulk degradation of cytoplasmic proteins as well as in selective degradation of cytoplasmic organelles. Autophagic flux is often defined as a measure of autophagic degradation activity, and many techniques exist to assess autophagic flux. Although these techniques have generated invaluable information about the autophagic system, the quest continues for developing methods that not only enhance sensitivity and provide a means of quantification, but also accurately reflect the dynamic character of the pathway. Based on the theoretical framework of metabolic control analysis, where the autophagosome flux is the quantitative description of the rate a flow along a pathway, here we treat the autophagy system as a multi-step pathway. We describe a single-cell fluorescence live-cell imaging-based approach that allows the autophagosome flux to be accurately measured. This method characterizes autophagy in terms of its complete autophagosome and autolysosome pool size, the autophagosome flux, J, and the transition time, ?, for autophagosomes and autolysosomes at steady state. This approach provides a sensitive quantitative method to measure autophagosome flux, pool sizes and transition time in cells and tissues of clinical relevance. ABBREVIATIONS:ATG5/APG5, autophagy-related 5; GFP, green fluorescent protein; LAMP1, lysosomal-associated membrane protein 1; MAP1LC3/LC3, microtubule-associated protein 1 light chain 3; J, flux; MEF, mouse embryonic fibroblast; MTOR, mechanistic target of rapamycin kinase; nA, number of autophagosomes; nAL, number of autolysosomes; nL, number of lysosomes; p-MTOR, phosphorylated mechanistic target of rapamycin kinase; RFP, red fluorescent protein; siRNA, small interfering RNA; ?, transition time; TEM, transmission electron microscopy.
Project description:Alzheimer's disease (AD) is the most common type of dementia worldwide. The deposition of amyloid ? (A?) is one of the most important pathological changes in AD. Autophagy, which mediates degradation of toxic proteins and maintains normal neuronal function, is dysfunctional in AD; dysfunctional autophagy is believed to be a critical pathological feature of AD. Here, we evaluated the in vitro and in vivo effects of a traditional Chinese medicinal formula called Yizhiqingxin formula (YQF) on autophagy. We determined that treatment with a high dose of YQF improved spatial memory and decreased the hippocampal A? burden in APP/PS1 mice, an early onset AD model. Transmission electron microscopy and immunohistochemical data revealed that YQF enhanced autophagosome formation and also increased the levels of LC3II/LC3I and Beclin1. Further, we found that YQF treatment promoted autophagic activity by inhibiting the phosphorylation of the Mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) at the Ser2448 site. Moreover, the level of 4EBP1 increased after YQF intervention, indicating a suppression of mTOR signaling. YQF was also found to promote autophagosome degradation, as indicated by the decreased p62 levels and increased cathepsin D and V-ATPase levels. Taken together, YQF could improve spatial learning in APP/PS1 mice and ameliorate the accumulation of A? while promoting autophagy via mTOR pathway modulation.
Project description:mTOR (mammalian target of rapamycin) 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 intimately involved both in the activation of mTOR complex 1 (mTORC1) signalling and in degrading autophagic substrates. Here we report that lysosomal positioning coordinates anabolic and catabolic responses with 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, whereas starvation causes perinuclear clustering of lysosomes, driven by changes in intracellular pH. 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 at both the initiation and termination stages of the process. Our findings provide a physiological role for the dynamic state of lysosomal positioning in cells as a coordinator of mTORC1 signalling with autophagic flux.
Project description:Autophagy is an evolutionarily conserved intracellular lysosomal degradation pathway. It is a multistep process involving de novo formation of double membrane autophagosomes that capture cytosolic constituents (cargo) and eventually fuse with lysosomes wherein the cargo gets degraded and resulting simpler biomolecules get recycled. In addition to their autophagy function, several of the autophagy-related proteins work at the interface of other vesicular trafficking pathways. Hence, development of specific autophagy modulators that do not perturb general endo-lysosomal traffic possesses unique challenges. In this article, we report a novel small molecule EACC that inhibits autophagic flux by blocking autophagosome-lysosome fusion. Strikingly, unlike other late stage inhibitors, EACC does not have any effect on lysosomal properties or on endocytosis-mediated degradation of EGF receptor. EACC affects the translocation of SNAREs Stx17 and SNAP29 on autophagosomes without impeding the completion of autophagosomes. EACC treatment also reduces the interaction of Stx17 with the HOPS subunit VPS33A and the cognate lysosomal R-SNARE VAMP8. Interestingly, this effect of EACC although quite robust is reversible and hence EACC can be used as a tool to study autophagosomal SNARE trafficking. Our results put forward a novel method to block autophagic flux by impeding the action of the autophagosomal SNAREs.
Project description:Defective autophagy contributes to Alzheimer disease (AD) pathogenesis although evidence is conflicting on whether multiple stages are impaired. Here, for the first time, we have comprehensively evaluated the entire autophagic process specifically in CA1 pyramidal neurons of hippocampus from early and late-stage AD subjects and nondemented controls. CA1 neurons aspirated by laser capture microdissection were analyzed using a custom-designed microarray comprising 578 neuropathology- and neuroscience-associated genes. Striking upregulation of autophagy-related genes, exceeding that of other gene ontology groups, reflected increases in autophagosome formation and lysosomal biogenesis beginning at early AD stages. Upregulated autophagosome formation was further indicated by elevated gene and protein expression levels for autophagosome components and increased LC3-positive puncta. Increased lysosomal biogenesis was evidenced by activation of MiTF/TFE family transcriptional regulators, particularly TFE3 (transcription factor binding to IGHM enhancer 3) and by elevated expression of their target genes and encoded proteins. Notably, TFEB (transcription factor EB) activation was associated more strongly with glia than neurons. These findings establish that autophagic sequestration is both competent and upregulated in AD. Autophagosome-lysosome fusion is not evidently altered. Despite this early disease response, however, autophagy flux is progressively impeded due to deficient substrate clearance, as reflected by autolysosomal accumulation of LC3-II and SQSTM1/p62 and expansion of autolysosomal size and total area. We propose that sustained induction of autophagy in the face of progressively declining lysosomal clearance of substrates explains the uncommonly robust autophagic pathology and neuritic dystrophy implicated in AD pathogenesis.
Project description:Autophagy is a lysosome-dependent cellular catabolic mechanism that mediates the turnover of intracellular organelles and long-lived proteins. Reduced autophagic activity has been shown to lead to the accumulation of misfolded proteins in neurons and might be involved in chronic neurodegenerative diseases. Here, we uncover an essential role for the syntaxin-5 SNARE complex in autophagy. Using genetic knockdown, we show that the syntaxin-5 SNARE complex regulates the later stages of autophagy after the initial formation of autophagosomes. This SNARE complex acts on autophagy by regulating ER-to-Golgi transport through the secretory pathway, which is essential for the activity of lysosomal proteases such as cathepsins. Depletion of syntaxin-5 complex components results in the accumulation of autophagosomes as a result of lysosomal dysfunction, leading to decreased degradation of autophagic substrates. Our findings provide a novel link between a fundamental process such as intracellular trafficking and human diseases that might be affected by defective biogenesis and/or homeostasis of the autophagosome-lysosome degradation system.
Project description:Lysosome is a key subcellular organelle in the execution of the autophagic process and at present little is known whether lysosomal function is controlled in the process of autophagy. In this study, we first found that suppression of mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) activity by starvation or two mTOR catalytic inhibitors (PP242 and Torin1), but not by an allosteric inhibitor (rapamycin), leads to activation of lysosomal function. Second, we provided evidence that activation of lysosomal function is associated with the suppression of mTOR complex 1 (mTORC1), but not mTORC2, and the mTORC1 localization to lysosomes is not directly correlated to its regulatory role in lysosomal function. Third, we examined the involvement of transcription factor EB (TFEB) and demonstrated that TFEB activation following mTORC1 suppression is necessary but not sufficient for lysosomal activation. Finally, Atg5 or Atg7 deletion or blockage of the autophagosome-lysosome fusion process effectively diminished lysosomal activation, suggesting that lysosomal activation occurring in the course of autophagy is dependent on autophagosome-lysosome fusion. Taken together, this study demonstrates that in the course of autophagy, lysosomal function is upregulated via a dual mechanism involving mTORC1 suppression and autophagosome-lysosome fusion.
Project description:Autophagy functions as a survival mechanism during cellular stress and contributes to resistance against anticancer agents. The selective antitumor and antimetastatic chelator di-2-pyridylketone 4,4-dimethyl-3-thiosemicarbazone (Dp44mT) causes lysosomal membrane permeabilization and cell death. Considering the integral role of lysosomes in autophagy and cell death, it was important to assess the effect of Dp44mT on autophagy to further understand its mechanism of action. Notably, Dp44mT affected autophagy by two mechanisms. First, concurrent with its antiproliferative activity, Dp44mT increased the expression of the classical autophagic marker LC3-II as a result of induced autophagosome synthesis. Second, this effect was supplemented by a reduction in autophagosome degradation as shown by the accumulation of the autophagic substrate and receptor p62. Conversely, the classical iron chelator desferrioxamine induced autophagosome accumulation only by inhibiting autophagosome degradation. The formation of redox-active iron or copper Dp44mT complexes was critical for its dual effect on autophagy. The cytoprotective antioxidant N-acetylcysteine inhibited Dp44mT-induced autophagosome synthesis and p62 accumulation. Importantly, Dp44mT inhibited autophagosome degradation via lysosomal disruption. This effect prevented the fusion of lysosomes with autophagosomes to form autolysosomes, which is crucial for the completion of the autophagic process. The antiproliferative activity of Dp44mT was suppressed by Beclin1 and ATG5 silencing, indicating the role of persistent autophagosome synthesis in Dp44mT-induced cell death. These studies demonstrate that Dp44mT can overcome the prosurvival activity of autophagy in cancer cells by utilizing this process to potentiate cell death.
Project description:Deficiency in autophagy, a lysosome-dependent cell degradation pathway, has been associated with a variety of diseases especially cancer. Recently, the activation of autophagy by hepatitis B virus X (HBx) protein, which is implicated in hepatitis B virus (HBV)-associated hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), has been identified in hepatic cells. However, the underlying mechanism and the relevance of HBx-activated autophagy to the carcinogenesis caused by HBV remain elusive. Here, by transfection of HBV genomic DNA and HBx in hepatic and hepatoma cells, we showed that HBV- or HBx-induced autophagosome formation was accompanied by unchanged MTOR (mechanistic target of rapamycin) activity and decreased degradation of LC3 and SQSTM1/p62, the typical autophagic cargo proteins. Further functional and morphological analysis indicated that HBx dramatically impaired lysosomal acidification leading to a drop in lysosomal degradative capacity and the accumulation of immature lysosomes possibly through interaction with V-ATPase affecting its lysosome targeting. Moreover, clinical specimen test showed increased SQSTM1 and immature lysosomal hydrolase CTSD (cathepsin D) in human liver tissues with chronic HBV infection and HBV-associated liver cancer. These data suggest that a repressive effect of HBx on lysosomal function is responsible for the inhibition of autophagic degradation, and this may be critical to the development of HBV-associated HCC.
Project description:Autophagy involves the lysosomal degradation of cytoplasmic contents for regeneration of anabolic substrates during nutritional or inflammatory stress. Its initiation occurs rapidly after inactivation of the protein kinase mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) (or mechanistic target of rapamycin), leading to dephosphorylation of Unc-51-like kinase 1 (ULK1) and autophagosome formation. Recent studies indicate that mTOR can, in parallel, regulate the activity of stress transcription factors, including signal transducer and activator of transcription-1 (STAT1). The current study addresses the role of STAT1 as a transcriptional suppressor of autophagy genes and autophagic activity. We show that STAT1-deficient human fibrosarcoma cells exhibited enhanced autophagic flux as well as its induction by pharmacological inhibition of mTOR. Consistent with enhanced autophagy initiation, ULK1 mRNA and protein levels were increased in STAT1-deficient cells. By chromatin immunoprecipitation, STAT1 bound a putative regulatory sequence in the ULK1 5'-flanking region, the mutation of which increased ULK1 promoter activity, and rendered it unresponsive to mTOR inhibition. Consistent with an anti-apoptotic effect of autophagy, rapamycin-induced apoptosis and cytotoxicity were blocked in STAT1-deficient cells but restored in cells simultaneously exposed to the autophagy inhibitor ammonium chloride. In vivo, skeletal muscle ULK1 mRNA and protein levels as well as autophagic flux were significantly enhanced in STAT1-deficient mice. These results demonstrate a novel mechanism by which STAT1 negatively regulates ULK1 expression and autophagy.