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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2008 Dec 30;105(52):20567-74. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0810611105. Epub 2008 Dec 12.

Ubiquitin signals autophagic degradation of cytosolic proteins and peroxisomes.

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Cell Biology and Metabolism Program, National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA.


Autophagy is responsible for nonspecific, bulk degradation of cytoplasmic components. Recent work has revealed also that there is specific, autophagic degradation of polyubiquitinated protein aggregates, whose buildup occurs during neurodegenerative disease. Here, we report that simple mono-ubiquitination of normally long-lived cytoplasmic substrates is sufficient to target these substrates for autophagic degradation in mammalian cells. That is, upon their ubiquitination, both small [i.e., red fluorescent protein (RFP)] and large (i.e., peroxisomes) substrates are efficiently targeted to autophagosomes and then degraded within lysosomes upon autophagosome-lysosome fusion. This targeting requires the ubiquitin-binding protein, p62, and is blocked by the Class III phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K) inhibitor, 3-methyladenine (3-MA), or by depletion of the autophagy-related-12 (Atg12) protein homolog. Mammalian cells thus use a common pathway involving ubiquitin and p62 for targeting diverse types of substrates for autophagy.

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