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Nat Struct Mol Biol. 2014 Apr;21(4):336-45. doi: 10.1038/nsmb.2787.

Dynamic regulation of macroautophagy by distinctive ubiquitin-like proteins.

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1] Life Sciences Institute, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA. [2].
1] Department of Structural Biology, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, Memphis, Tennessee, USA. [2] Howard Hughes Medical Institute, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, Memphis, Tennessee, USA. [3].


Autophagy complements the ubiquitin-proteasome system in mediating protein turnover. Whereas the proteasome degrades individual proteins modified with ubiquitin chains, autophagy degrades many proteins and organelles en masse. Macromolecules destined for autophagic degradation are 'selected' through sequestration within a specialized double-membrane compartment termed the phagophore, the precursor to an autophagosome, and then are hydrolyzed in a lysosome- or vacuole-dependent manner. Notably, a pair of distinctive ubiquitin-like proteins (UBLs), Atg8 and Atg12, regulate degradation by autophagy in unique ways by controlling autophagosome biogenesis and recruitment of specific cargos during selective autophagy. Here we review structural mechanisms underlying the functions and conjugation of these UBLs that are specialized to provide interaction platforms linked to phagophore membranes.

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