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Genetics. 2010 Jul;185(3):871-82. doi: 10.1534/genetics.110.116566. Epub 2010 May 3.

Autophosphorylation within the Atg1 activation loop is required for both kinase activity and the induction of autophagy in Saccharomyces cerevisiae.

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Department of Molecular Genetics, The Ohio State University, Columbus Ohio 43210, USA.


Autophagy is an evolutionarily conserved degradative pathway that has been implicated in a number of physiological events important for human health. This process was originally identified as a response to nutrient deprivation and is thought to serve in a recycling capacity during periods of nutritional stress. Autophagy activity appears to be highly regulated and multiple signaling pathways are known to target a complex of proteins that contains the Atg1 protein kinase. The data here extend these observations and identify a particular phosphorylation event on Atg1 as a potential control point within the autophagy pathway in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. This phosphorylation occurs at a threonine residue, T226, within the Atg1 activation loop that is conserved in all Atg1 orthologs. Replacing this threonine with a nonphosphorylatable residue resulted in a loss of Atg1 protein kinase activity and a failure to induce autophagy. This phosphorylation required the presence of a functional Atg1 kinase domain and two known regulators of Atg1 activity, Atg13 and Atg17. Interestingly, the levels of this modification were found to increase dramatically upon exposure to conditions that induce autophagy. In addition, T226 phosphorylation was associated with an autophosphorylated form of Atg1 that was found specifically in cells undergoing the autophagy process. In all, these data suggest that autophosphorylation within the Atg1 activation loop may represent a point of regulatory control for this degradative process.

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