Autophagy in unicellular eukaryotes.

Molecular Cell Biology, Groningen Biomolecular Sciences and Biotechnology Institute, University of Groningen, PO Box 14, 9750 Haren, The Netherlands.
Philosophical Transactions of The Royal Society B Biological Sciences (Impact Factor: 6.23). 03/2010; 365(1541):819-30. DOI: 10.1098/rstb.2009.0237
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Cells need a constant supply of precursors to enable the production of macromolecules to sustain growth and survival. Unlike metazoans, unicellular eukaryotes depend exclusively on the extracellular medium for this supply. When environmental nutrients become depleted, existing cytoplasmic components will be catabolized by (macro)autophagy in order to re-use building blocks and to support ATP production. In many cases, autophagy takes care of cellular housekeeping to sustain cellular viability. Autophagy encompasses a multitude of related and often highly specific processes that are implicated in both biogenetic and catabolic processes. Recent data indicate that in some unicellular eukaryotes that undergo profound differentiation during their life cycle (e.g. kinetoplastid parasites and amoebes), autophagy is essential for the developmental change that allows the cell to adapt to a new host or form spores. This review summarizes the knowledge on the molecular mechanisms of autophagy as well as the cytoplasm-to-vacuole-targeting pathway, pexophagy, mitophagy, ER-phagy, ribophagy and piecemeal microautophagy of the nucleus, all highly selective forms of autophagy that have first been uncovered in yeast species. Additionally, a detailed analysis will be presented on the state of knowledge on autophagy in non-yeast unicellular eukaryotes with emphasis on the role of this process in differentiation.

1 Bookmark
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: The evolution of metazoans from their unicellular ancestors was one of the most important events in the history of life. However, the cellular and genetic changes that ultimately led to the evolution of multicellularity are not known. In this study, we describe an aggregative multicellular stage in the protist Capsaspora owczarzaki, a close unicellular relative of metazoans. Remarkably, transition to the aggregative stage is associated with significant upregulation of orthologs of genes known to establish multicellularity and tissue architecture in metazoans. We further observe transitions in regulated alternative splicing during the C. owczarzaki life cycle, including the deployment of an exon network associated with signaling, a feature of splicing regulation so far only observed in metazoans. Our results reveal the existence of a highly regulated aggregative stage in C. owczarzaki and further suggest that features of aggregative behavior in an ancestral protist may had been co-opted to develop some multicellular properties currently seen in metazoans. DOI:
    eLife Sciences 12/2013; 2:e01287. · 8.52 Impact Factor
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Autophagy, the lysosome-mediated self-degradation process, is implicated in survival during starvation in yeast, Dictyostelium and animals. In these eukaryotic taxa (collectively called Unikonts), autophagy is induced primarily through the Atg1/ULK1 complex in response to nutrient depletion. Autophagy has also been well-studied in non-unikont parasites, such as Trypanosoma and Plasmodium, and found important in their life-cycle transitions. However, how autophagy is induced in non-unikonts remains largely unrevealed. Using a bioinformatics approach, we examined the presence of Atg1 and of its complex in the genomes of 40 non-unikonts. We found that these genomes do not encode typical Atg1 proteins: BLAST and HMMER queries matched only with the kinase domain of Atg1, while other segments responsible for regulation and protein-binding were missing. Non-unikonts also lacked other components of the Atg1-inducing complex. Orthologs of an alternative autophagy inducer, Atg6 were found only in the half of the species, indicating that the other half may possess other inducing mechanisms. As key autophagy genes have differential expression patterns during life-cycle, we raise the possibility that autophagy in these protists is induced mainly at the post-transcriptional level. Understanding Atg1-independent autophagy induction mechanisms in these parasites may lead to novel pharmacological interventions, not affecting human Atg1-dependent autophagy.
    Scientific Reports 07/2014; 4:5829. · 5.08 Impact Factor
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Conventional autophagy is a lysosome-dependent degradation process that has crucial homeostatic and regulatory functions in eukaryotic organisms. As malaria parasites must dispose a number of self and host cellular contents, we investigated if autophagy in malaria parasites is similar to the conventional autophagy. Genome wide analysis revealed a partial autophagy repertoire in Plasmodium, as homologs for only 15 of the 33 yeast autophagy proteins could be identified, including the autophagy marker Atg8. To gain insights into autophagy in malaria parasites, we investigated Plasmodium falciparum Atg8 (PfAtg8) employing techniques and conditions that are routinely used to study autophagy. Atg8 was similarly expressed and showed punctate localization throughout the parasite in both asexual and sexual stages; it was exclusively found in the pellet fraction as an integral membrane protein, which is in contrast to the yeast or mammalian Atg8 that is distributed among cytosolic and membrane fractions, and suggests for a constitutive autophagy. Starvation, the best known autophagy inducer, decreased PfAtg8 level by almost 3-fold compared to the normally growing parasites. Neither the Atg8-associated puncta nor the Atg8 expression level was significantly altered by treatment of parasites with routinely used autophagy inhibitors (cysteine (E64) and aspartic (pepstatin) protease inhibitors, the kinase inhibitor 3-methyladenine, and the lysosomotropic agent chloroquine), indicating an atypical feature of autophagy. Furthermore, prolonged inhibition of the major food vacuole protease activity by E64 and pepstatin did not cause accumulation of the Atg8-associated puncta in the food vacuole, suggesting that autophagy is primarily not meant for degradative function in malaria parasites. Atg8 showed partial colocalization with the apicoplast; doxycycline treatment, which disrupts apicoplast, did not affect Atg8 localization, suggesting a role, but not exclusive, in apicoplast biogenesis. Collectively, our results reveal several atypical features of autophagy in malaria parasites, which may be largely associated with non-degradative processes.
    PLoS ONE 01/2014; 9(11):e113220. · 3.53 Impact Factor


Available from