The sole proteases of the macroautophagy/autophagy machinery, the ATG4s, contribute to autophagosome formation by cleaving Atg8-family protein members (LC3/GABARAPs) which enables Atg8-family protein lipidation and de-lipidation. Our recent work reveals that ATG4s can also promote phagophore growth independently of their protease activity and of Atg8-family proteins. ATG4s and their proximity partners including ARFIP2 and LRBA function to promote trafficking of ATG9A to mitochondria during PINK1-PRKN mitophagy. Through the development of a 3D electron microscopy framework utilizing FIB-SEM and artificial intelligence (termed AIVE: Artificial Intelligence-directed Voxel Extraction), we show that ATG4s promote ER-phagophore contacts during the lipid-transfer phase of autophagosome biogenesis, which requires ATG2B and ATG9A to support phagophore growth. We also discovered that ATG4s are not essential for removal of Atg8-family proteins from autolysosomes, but they can function as deubiquitinase-like enzymes to counteract the conjugation of Atg8-family proteins to other proteins, a process that we have termed ATG8ylation (also known as LC3ylation). These discoveries demonstrate the duality of the ATG4 family in driving autophagosome formation by functioning as both autophagy proteases and trafficking factors, while simultaneously raising questions about the putative roles of ATG8ylation in cell biology.
Nguyen Thanh Ngoc, Padman Benjamin Scott, Lazarou Michael
ATG4, ATG8, ATG8ylation, PINK1-PRKN mitophagy, Parkinson’s disease, autophagy, de-lipidation, immune disease, mitochondrial dysfunction, ubiquitin-like