Dual Roles of Mammalian Target of Rapamycin in Regulating Liver Injury and Tumorigenesis in Autophagy-Defective Mouse Liver.
ABSTRACT: Autophagy is a lysosomal degradation pathway that degrades cytoplasmic proteins and organelles. Absence of autophagy in hepatocytes has been linked to promoting liver injury and tumorigenesis; however, the mechanisms behind why a lack of autophagy induces these complications are not fully understood. The role of mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) in impaired autophagy-induced liver pathogenesis and tumorigenesis was investigated by using liver-specific autophagy related 5 knockout (L-ATG5 KO) mice, L-ATG5/mTOR, and L-ATG5/Raptor double knockout (DKO) mice. We found that deletion of mTOR or Raptor in L-ATG5 KO mice at 2 months of age attenuated hepatomegaly, cell death, and inflammation but not fibrosis. Surprisingly, at 6 months of age, L-ATG5/mTOR DKO and L-ATG5/Raptor DKO mice also had increased hepatic inflammation, fibrosis, and liver injury, similar to the L-ATG5 KO mice. Moreover, more than 50% of L-ATG5/mTOR DKO and L-ATG5/Raptor DKO mice already developed spontaneous tumors, but none of the L-ATG5 KO mice had developed any tumors at 6 months of age. At 9 months of age, all L-ATG5/mTOR DKO and L-ATG5/Raptor DKO had developed liver tumors. Mechanistically, L-ATG5/mTOR DKO and L-ATG5/Raptor DKO mice had decreased levels of hepatic ubiquitinated proteins and persistent nuclear erythroid 2 p45-related factor 2 activation but had increased Akt activation compared with L-ATG5 KO mice. Conclusion: Loss of mTOR signaling attenuates the liver pathogenesis in mice with impaired hepatic autophagy but paradoxically promotes tumorigenesis in mice at a relatively young age. Therefore, the balance of mTOR is critical in regulating the liver pathogenesis and tumorigenesis in mice with impaired hepatic autophagy.
Project description:Chronic alcohol consumption induces adipose tissue atrophy. However, the mechanisms for how alcohol induces lipodystrophy and its impact on liver steatosis and injury are not fully elucidated. Autophagy is a highly conserved lysosomal degradation pathway, which regulates cellular homeostasis. Mice with autophagy deficiency in adipose tissue have impaired adipogenesis. However, whether autophagy plays a role in alcohol-induced adipose atrophy and how altered adipocyte autophagy contributes to alcohol-induced liver injury remain unclear. To determine the role of adipose autophagy and mechanistic target of rapamycin (mTOR) in alcohol-induced adipose and liver pathogenesis, we generated adipocyte-specific Atg5 knockout (KO), adipocyte-specific mTOR KO, adipocyte-specific Raptor KO, and adipocyte-specific tuberous sclerosis complex 1 KO mice by crossing floxed mice with Adipoq-Cre. The KO mice and their matched wild-type mice were challenged with chronic-plus-binge alcohol mouse model. Chronic-plus-binge alcohol induced adipose atrophy with increased autophagy and decreased Akt/mTOR signaling in epididymal adipose tissue in wild-type mice. Adipocyte-specific Raptor KO mice experienced exacerbated alcohol-induced steatosis, but neither adipocyte-specific mTOR nor adipocyte-specific tuberous sclerosis complex 1 KO mice exhibited similar detrimental effects. Adipocyte-specific Atg5 KO mice had increased circulating levels of fibroblast growth factor 21 and adiponectin and were resistant to alcohol-induced adipose atrophy and liver injury. In conclusion, autophagy deficiency in adipose tissue leads to reduced sensitivity to alcohol-induced adipose atrophy, which ameliorates alcohol-induced liver injury in mice.
Project description:Yeast Atg1 initiates autophagy in response to nutrient limitation. The Ulk gene family encompasses the mammalian orthologs of yeast ATG1. We created mice deficient for both Ulk1 and Ulk2 and found that the mice die within 24 h of birth. When found alive, pups exhibited signs of respiratory distress. Histological sections of lungs of the Ulk1/2 DKO pups showed reduced airspaces with thickened septae. A similar defect was seen in Atg5-deficient pups as both Ulk1/2 DKO and Atg5 KO lungs show numerous glycogen-laden alveolar type II cells by electron microscopy, PAS staining, and increased levels of glycogen in lung homogenates. No abnormalities were noted in expression of genes encoding surfactant proteins but the ability to incorporate exogenous choline into phosphatidylcholine, the major phospholipid component of surfactant, was increased in comparison to controls. Despite this, there was a trend for total phospholipid levels in lung tissue to be lower in Ulk1/2 DKO and Atg5 KO compared with controls. Autophagy was abundant in lung epithelial cells from wild-type mice, but lacking in Atg5 KO and Ulk1/2 DKO mice at P1. Analysis of the autophagy signaling pathway showed the existence of a negative feedback loop between the ULK1 and 2 and MTORC1 and 2, in lung tissue. In the absence of autophagy, alveolar epithelial cells are unable to mobilize internal glycogen stores independently of surfactant maturation. Together, the data suggested that autophagy plays a vital role in lung structural maturation in support of perinatal adaptation to air breathing.
Project description:Autophagy is an intracellular lysosomal degradation process that plays an important role in regulating normal physiological functions of the liver. The purpose of the present study was to investigate the mechanism(s) by which the loss of hepatic autophagy leads to liver inflammation, fibrosis and tumorigenesis.Hepatocyte-specific Atg5 knockout mice were generated by crossing Atg5 Flox/Flox mice with albumin Cre mice. These mice were also crossed with Nrf2 knockout mice to generate Atg5 Flox/Flox, Albumin Cre(+)/Nrf2(-/-) double knockout mice. These mice were housed for various time points up to 15 months, and blood and liver tissues were harvested for biochemical and histological analysis.Hepatocyte-specific deletion of Atg5 resulted in increased apoptosis, inflammation and fibrosis in the liver. Increased apoptosis in hepatocyte-specific Atg5 knockout mice was likely due to accumulation of aberrant polyubiquitinated proteins (proteotoxicity) and disruption of the homeostasis of pro-and anti-apoptotic proteins. All of these pathological changes started as early as one month and persisted for 12-15 months. At 9-15 months of age, these mice also developed hepatocellular adenomas. Interestingly, deletion of Nrf2 in Atg5 liver-specific knockout mice markedly abolished these pathological changes, indicating a key role for this transcription factor in the mechanism of hepatic pathology.Our results provide genetic evidence that loss of autophagy in hepatocytes causes cell death resulting in liver inflammation, fibrosis and tumorigenesis. We also demonstrate that persistent activation of Nrf2 is critical for liver inflammation, fibrosis and eventual tumorigenesis that occur in mice with defects in hepatocyte autophagy.
Project description:Liver kinase B1 (Lkb1) and mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) are key regulators of energy metabolism and cell growth. We have previously reported that adipocyte-specific KO of Lkb1 or mTOR in mice results in distinct developmental and metabolic phenotypes. Here, we aimed to assess how genetic KO of both Lkb1 and mTOR affects adipose tissue development and function in energy homeostasis. We used Adiponectin-Cre to drive adipocyte-specific double KO (DKO) of Lkb1 and mTOR in mice. We performed indirect calorimetry, glucose and insulin tolerance tests, and gene expression assays on the DKO and WT mice. We found that DKO of Lkb1 and mTOR results in reductions of brown adipose tissue and inguinal white adipose tissue mass, but in increases of liver mass. Notably, the DKO mice developed fatty liver and insulin resistance, but displayed improved glucose tolerance after high-fat diet (HFD)-feeding. Interestingly, the DKO mice were protected from HFD-induced obesity due to their higher energy expenditure and lower expression levels of adipogenic genes (CCAAT/enhancer binding protein ? and PPAR?) compared with WT mice. These results together indicate that, compared with Lkb1 or mTOR single KOs, Lkb1/mTOR DKO in adipocytes results in overlapping and distinct metabolic phenotypes, and mTOR KO largely overrides the effect of Lkb1 KO.
Project description:Autophagy is activated by prolonged fasting but cannot overcome the ensuing hepatic lipid overload, resulting in fatty liver. Here, we describe a peroxisome-lysosome metabolic link that restricts autophagic degradation of lipids. Acyl-CoA oxidase 1 (Acox1), the enzyme that catalyzes the first step in peroxisomal β-oxidation, is enriched in liver and further increases with fasting or high-fat diet (HFD). Liver-specific Acox1 knockout (Acox1-LKO) protected mice against hepatic steatosis caused by starvation or HFD due to induction of autophagic degradation of lipid droplets. Hepatic Acox1 deficiency markedly lowered total cytosolic acetyl-CoA levels, which led to decreased Raptor acetylation and reduced lysosomal localization of mTOR, resulting in impaired activation of mTORC1, a central regulator of autophagy. Dichloroacetic acid treatment elevated acetyl-CoA levels, restored mTORC1 activation, inhibited autophagy, and increased hepatic triglycerides in Acox1-LKO mice. These results identify peroxisome-derived acetyl-CoA as a key metabolic regulator of autophagy that controls hepatic lipid homeostasis.
Project description:Programmed cell death, which is required for the development and homeostasis of metazoans, includes mechanisms such as apoptosis, autophagic cell death, and necrotic (or type III) death. Members of the Bcl2 family regulate apoptosis, among which Bax and Bak act as a mitochondrial gateway. Although embryonic fibroblasts from Bax/Bak double-knockout (DKO) mice are resistant to apoptosis, we previously demonstrated that these cells die through an autophagy-dependent mechanism in response to various types of cellular stressors. To determine the physiological role of autophagy-dependent cell death, we generated Atg5/Bax/Bak triple-knockout (TKO) mice, in which autophagy is greatly suppressed compared with DKO mice. Embryonic fibroblasts and thymocytes from TKO mice underwent autophagy much less frequently, and their viability was much higher than DKO cells in the presence of certain cellular stressors, providing genetic evidence that DKO cells undergo Atg5-dependent death. Compared with wild-type embryos, the loss of interdigital webs was significantly delayed in DKO embryos and was even further delayed in TKO embryos. Brain malformation is a distinct feature observed in DKO embryos on the 129 genetic background, but not in those on a B6 background, whereas such malformations appeared in TKO embryos even on a B6 background. Taken together, our data suggest that Atg5-dependent cell death contributes to the embryonic development of DKO mice, implying that autophagy compensates for the deficiency in apoptosis.
Project description:The purpose of this study is to identify the differential transcriptome profiles in WT, hepatic Atg5 KO, TSC1 KO, Atg5/TSC1 DKO, Atg5/TSC1/p62 TKO and Atg5/TSC1/Nrf2 TKO mouse livers. Hepatic mRNA from 2-month-old mice from 5 different mouse strains were extracted and performed for Nextseq analysis in quadruplicates.
Project description:Glucosylceramide (GluCer) was accumulated in sphingomyelin synthase 1 (SMS1) but not SMS2 deficient mouse tissues. In current study, we studied GluCer accumulation-mediated metabolic consequences. Livers from liver-specific <i>Sms1</i>/global <i>Sms2</i> double-knockout (dKO) exhibited severe steatosis under a high-fat diet. Moreover, chow diet-fed ≥6-month-old dKO mice had liver impairment, inflammation, and fibrosis, compared with wild type and <i>Sms2</i> KO mice. RNA sequencing showed 3- to 12-fold increases in various genes which are involved in lipogenesis, inflammation, and fibrosis. Further, we found that direct GluCer treatment (<i>in vitro</i> and <i>in vivo</i>) promoted hepatocyte to secrete more activated TGFβ1, which stimulated more collagen 1α1 production in hepatic stellate cells. Additionally, GluCer promoted more β-catenin translocation into the nucleus, thus promoting tumorigenesis. Importantly, human NASH patients had higher liver GluCer synthase and higher plasma GluCer. These findings implicated that GluCer accumulation is one of triggers promoting the development of NAFLD into NASH, then, fibrosis, and tumorigenesis.
Project description:Mechanistic target of rapamycin complex 1 (mTORC1), defined by the presence of Raptor, is an evolutionarily conserved and nutrient-sensitive regulator of cellular growth and other metabolic processes. To date, all known functions of Raptor involve its scaffolding mTOR kinase with substrate. Here we report that mTORC1-independent ('free') Raptor negatively regulates hepatic Akt activity and lipogenesis. Free Raptor levels in liver decline with age and in obesity; restoration of free Raptor levels reduces liver triglyceride content, through reduced ?-TrCP-mediated degradation of the Akt phosphatase, PHLPP2. Commensurately, forced PHLPP2 expression ameliorates hepatic steatosis in diet-induced obese mice. These data suggest that the balance of free and mTORC1-associated Raptor governs hepatic lipid accumulation, and uncover the potentially therapeutic role of PHLPP2 activators in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
Project description:Defects in basal autophagy limit the nutrient supply from recycling of intracellular constituents. Despite our understanding of the prosurvival role of macroautophagy/autophagy, how nutrient deprivation, caused by compromised autophagy, affects oncogenic KRAS-driven tumor progression is poorly understood. Here, we demonstrate that conditional impairment of the autophagy gene Atg5 (atg5-KO) extends the survival of KRASG12V-driven tumor-bearing mice by 38%. atg5-KO tumors spread more slowly during late tumorigenesis, despite a faster onset. atg5-KO tumor cells displayed reduced mitochondrial function and increased mitochondrial fragmentation. Metabolite profiles indicated a deficiency in the nonessential amino acid asparagine despite a compensatory overexpression of ASNS (asparagine synthetase), key enzyme for de novo asparagine synthesis. Inhibition of either autophagy or ASNS reduced KRASG12V-driven tumor cell proliferation, migration, and invasion, which was rescued by asparagine supplementation or knockdown of MFF (mitochondrial fission factor). Finally, these observations were reflected in human cancer-derived data, linking ASNS overexpression with poor clinical outcome in multiple cancers. Together, our data document a widespread yet specific asparagine homeostasis control by autophagy and ASNS, highlighting the previously unrecognized role of autophagy in suppressing the metabolic barriers of low asparagine and excessive mitochondrial fragmentation to permit malignant KRAS-driven tumor progression.