GABARAPs and LC3s have opposite roles in regulating ULK1 for autophagy induction

Douglas S. Grunwald, Neil Michael Otto, Ji Man Park, Daihyun Song, Do Hyung Kim

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ULK1 (unc-51 like autophagy activating kinase 1) is the key mediator of MTORC1 signaling to macroautophagy/autophagy. ULK1 functions as a protein complex by interacting with ATG13, RB1CC1/FIP200, and ATG101. How the ULK1 complex is regulated to trigger autophagy induction remains unclear. In this study, we have determined roles of Atg8-family proteins (ATG8s) in regulating ULK1 activity and autophagy. Using human cells depleted of each subfamily of ATG8, we found that the GABARAP subfamily positively regulates ULK1 activity and phagophore and autophagosome formation in response to starvation. In contrast, the LC3 subfamily negatively regulates ULK1 activity and phagophore formation. By reconstituting ATG8-depleted cells with individual ATG8 members, we identified GABARAP and GABARAPL1 as positive and LC3B and LC3C as negative regulators of ULK1 activity. To address the role of ATG8 binding to ULK1, we mutated the LIR of endogenous ULK1 to disrupt the ATG8-ULK1 interaction by genome editing. The mutation drastically reduced the activity of ULK1, autophagic degradation of SQSTM1, and phagophore formation in response to starvation. The mutation also suppressed the formation and turnover of autophagosomes in response to starvation. Similar to the mutation of the ULK1 LIR, disruption of the ATG13-ATG8 interaction suppressed ULK1 activity and autophagosome formation. In contrast, RB1CC1 did not show any specific binding to ATG8s, and mutation of its LIR did not affect ULK1 activity. Together, this study demonstrates differential binding and opposite regulation of the ULK1 complex by GABARAPs and LC3s, and an important role of the ULK1- and ATG13-ATG8 interactions in autophagy induction. Abbreviations: ATG5: autophagy related 5; ATG7: autophagy related 7; ATG8: autophagy related 8; ATG13: autophagy related 13; ATG14: autophagy related 14; ATG16L1: autophagy related 16 like 1; ATG101: autophagy related 101; BAFA1: bafilomycin A 1; BECN1: beclin 1; Cas9: CRISPR associated protein 9; CRISPR: clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats; EBSS: earle's balanced salt solution; DAPI: 4'-6-diamidino-2-phenylindole; GABARAP: GABA type A receptor-associated protein; GABARAPL1: GABA type A receptor-associated protein like 1; GABARAPL2: GABA type A receptor-associated protein like 2; GAPDH: glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase; GFP: green fluorescence protein; gRNA: guide RNA; KI: kinase inactive mutant; KO: knockout; LC3A: microtubule associated protein 1 light chain 3 alpha; LC3B: microtubule associated protein 1 light chain 3 beta; LC3C: microtubule associated protein 1 light chain 3 gamma; LIR: LC3-interacting region; MTORC1: mechanistic target of rapamycin kinase complex 1; PBS: phosphate buffered saline; PCR: polymerase chain reaction; PE: phosphatidylethanolamine; PtdIns3P: phosphatidylinositol-3-phosphate; qPCR: quantitative PCR; RB1CC1/FIP200: RB1 inducible coiled-coil 1; RPS6KB1: ribosomal protein S6 kinase B1; SEM: standard error of the mean; SQSTM1/p62: sequestosome 1; TALEN: transcription activator-like effector nuclease; TUBA: tubulin alpha; ULK1: unc-51 like autophagy activating kinase 1; WB: western blotting; WIPI2: WD repeat domain phosphoinositide interacting 2; WT: wild type.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)600-614
Number of pages15
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was supported by the functional proteomics of aging training grant T32AG029796 (to DSG and NMO); GM097057 and GM130353 (to DHK); National Institute of General Medical Sciences [GM097057] and [GM130353]; National Institute on Aging [T32AG029796]. We thank M. Lazarou for providing ATG8 hexa KO, LC3 TKO, and GABARAP TKO cells; Erik Toso and Michael Kyba for generation of ATG8 KO cells and LIR mutant cells; Colby Starker, Becca Greenstein, and Dan Voytas for TALEN construction.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019, © 2019 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • ATG8
  • LC3
  • LIR
  • ULK1


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