[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: ULK1 (Unc51-like kinase, hATG1) is a Ser/Thr kinase that plays a key role in inducing autophagy in response to starvation. ULK1 is phosphorylated and negatively regulated by the mammalian target of rapamycin complex 1 (mTORC1). Previous studies have shown that ULK1 is not only a downstream effector of mTORC1 but also a negative regulator of mTORC1 signaling. ( 1-3) Here, we investigated how ULK1 regulates mTORC1 signaling, and found that ULK1 inhibits the kinase activity of mTORC1 and cell proliferation. Deficiency or knockdown of ULK1 or its homolog ULK2 enhanced mTORC1 signaling, cell proliferation rates and accumulation of cell mass, whereas overexpression of ULK1 had the opposite effect. Knockdown of Atg13, the binding partner of ULK1 and ULK2, mimicked the effects of ULK1 or ULK2 deficiency or knockdown. Both insulin and leucine stimulated mTORC1 signaling to a greater extent when ULK1 or ULK2 was deficient or knocked down. In contrast, Atg5 deficiency did not have a significant effect on mTORC1 signaling and cell proliferation. The stimulatory effect of ULK1 knockdown on mTORC1 signaling occurred even in the absence of tuberous sclerosis complex 2 (TSC2), the negative regulator of mTORC1 signaling. In addition, ULK1 was found to bind raptor, induce its phosphorylation, and inhibit the kinase activity of mTORC1. These results demonstrate that ULK1 negatively regulates the kinase activity of mTORC1 and cell proliferation in a manner independent of Atg5 and TSC2. The inhibition of mTORC1 by ULK1 may be important to coordinately regulate cell growth and autophagy with optimized utilization of cellular energy.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Nutrient starvation induces autophagy in eukaryotic cells through inhibition of TOR (target of rapamycin), an evolutionarily-conserved protein kinase. TOR, as a central regulator of cell growth, plays a key role at the interface of the pathways that coordinately regulate the balance between cell growth and autophagy in response to nutritional status, growth factor and stress signals. Although TOR has been known as a key regulator of autophagy for more than a decade, the underlying regulatory mechanisms have not been clearly understood. This review discusses the recent advances in understanding of the mechanism by which TOR regulates autophagy with focus on mammalian TOR (mTOR) and its regulation of the autophagy machinery.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Autophagy, the starvation-induced degradation of bulky cytosolic components, is up-regulated in mammalian cells when nutrient supplies are limited. Although mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) is known as the key regulator of autophagy induction, the mechanism by which mTOR regulates autophagy has remained elusive. Here, we identify that mTOR phosphorylates a mammalian homologue of Atg13 and the mammalian Atg1 homologues ULK1 and ULK2. The mammalian Atg13 binds both ULK1 and ULK2 and mediates the interaction of the ULK proteins with FIP200. The binding of Atg13 stabilizes and activates ULK and facilitates the phosphorylation of FIP200 by ULK, whereas knockdown of Atg13 inhibits autophagosome formation. Inhibition of mTOR by rapamycin or leucine deprivation, the conditions that induce autophagy, leads to dephosphorylation of ULK1, ULK2, and Atg13 and activates ULK to phosphorylate FIP200. These findings demonstrate that the ULK-Atg13-FIP200 complexes are direct targets of mTOR and important regulators of autophagy in response to mTOR signaling.
Molecular biology of the cell 03/2009; 20(7):1992-2003. · 5.98 Impact Factor