Beclin 1, a mammalian autophagy protein that has been implicated in development, tumour suppression, neurodegeneration and cell death, exists in a complex with Vps34, the class III phosphatidylinositol-3-kinase (PI(3)K) that mediates multiple vesicle-trafficking processes including endocytosis and autophagy. However, the precise role of the Beclin 1-Vps34 complex in autophagy regulation remains to be elucidated. Combining mouse genetics and biochemistry, we have identified a large in vivo Beclin 1 complex containing the known proteins Vps34, p150/Vps15 and UVRAG, as well as two newly identified proteins, Atg14L (yeast Atg14-like) and Rubicon (RUN domain and cysteine-rich domain containing, Beclin 1-interacting protein). Characterization of the new proteins revealed that Atg14L enhances Vps34 lipid kinase activity and upregulates autophagy, whereas Rubicon reduces Vps34 activity and downregulates autophagy. We show that Beclin 1 and Atg14L synergistically promote the formation of double-membraned organelles that are associated with Atg5 and Atg12, whereas forced expression of Rubicon results in aberrant late endosomal/lysosomal structures and impaired autophagosome maturation. We hypothesize that by forming distinct protein complexes, Beclin 1 and its binding proteins orchestrate the precise function of the class III PI(3)K in regulating autophagy at multiple steps.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cell Biology