E Karanasios, E Stapleton, SA Walker, M Manifava, NT Ktistakis
Autophagy is a cellular response triggered by the lack of nutrients, especially the absence of amino acids. Autophagy is defined by the formation of double membrane structures, called autophagosomes, that sequester cytoplasm, long-lived proteins and protein aggregates, defective organelles, and even viruses or bacteria. Autophagosomes eventually fuse with lysosomes leading to bulk degradation of their content, with the produced nutrients being recycled back to the cytoplasm. Therefore, autophagy is crucial for cell homeostasis, and dysregulation of autophagy can lead to disease, most notably neurodegeneration, ageing and cancer. Autophagosome formation is a very elaborate process, for which cells have allocated a specific group of proteins, called the core autophagy machinery. The core autophagy machinery is functionally complemented by additional proteins involved in diverse cellular processes, e.g. in membrane trafficking, in mitochondrial and lysosomal biology. Coordination of these proteins for the formation and degradation of autophagosomes constitutes the highly dynamic and sophisticated response of autophagy. Live cell imaging allows one to follow the molecular contribution of each autophagy-related protein down to the level of a single autophagosome formation event and in real time, therefore this technique offers a high temporal and spatial resolution. Here we use a cell line stably expressing GFP-DFCP1, to establish a spatial and temporal context for our analysis. DFCP1 marks omegasomes, which are precursor structures leading to autophagosomes formation. A protein of interest (POI) can be marked with either a red or cyan fluorescent tag. Different organelles, like the ER, mitochondria and lysosomes, are all involved in different steps of autophagosome formation, and can be marked using a specific tracker dye. Time-lapse microscopy of autophagy in this experimental set up, allows information to be extracted about the fourth dimension, i.e. time. Hence we can follow the contribution of the POI to autophagy in space and time.
Journal of visualized experiments : JoVE, PMID: 23929131