Mitochondria directly donate their membrane to form autophagosomes during a novel mechanism of parkin-associated mitophagy

Katherine L. Cook, David R. Soto-Pantoja, Mones Abu-Asab, Pamela A.G. Clarke, David D. Roberts, Robert Clarke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


Background: Autophagy (macroautophagy), a cellular process of " self-eating" , segregates damaged/aged organelles into vesicles, fuses with lysosomes, and enables recycling of the digested materials. The precise origin(s) of the autophagosome membrane is unclear and remains a critical but unanswered question. Endoplasmic reticulum, mitochondria, Golgi complex, and the plasma membrane have been proposed as the source of autophagosomal membranes.Findings: Using electron microscopy, immunogold labeling techniques, confocal microscopy, and flow cytometry we show that mitochondria can directly donate their membrane material to form autophagosomes. We expand upon earlier studies to show that mitochondria donate their membranes to form autophagosomes during basal and drug-induced autophagy. Moreover, electron microscopy and immunogold labeling studies show the first physical evidence of mitochondria forming continuous structures with LC3-labeled autophagosomes. The mitochondria forming these structures also stain positive for parkin, indicating that these mitochondrial-formed autophagosomes represent a novel mechanism of parkin-associated mitophagy.Conclusions: With the on-going debate regarding autophagosomal membrane origin, this report demonstrates that mitochondria can donate membrane materials to form autophagosomes. These structures may also represent a novel form of mitophagy where the mitochondria contribute to the formation of autophagosomes. This novel form of parkin-associated mitophagy may be a more efficient bio-energetic process compared with de novo biosynthesis of a new membrane, particularly if the membrane is obtained, at least partly, from the organelle being targeted for later degradation in the mature autolysosome.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number16
JournalCell and Bioscience
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 27 2014
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Katherine Cook is supported by a DOD Breast Cancer Research Program Postdoctoral Fellowship (BC112023). This research was also supported in part by awards from the US Department of Health and Human Services (R01-CA131465 and U54-CA149147) to Robert Clarke and from the Intramural Research Program of the NIH/NCI to David Roberts.


  • Antiestrogen resistance
  • Autophagy
  • Breast cancer
  • Estrogen receptor-α
  • Fulvestrant
  • Imatinib
  • Mitochondria
  • Mitophagy
  • Parkin


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