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PLoS Genet. 2017 Sep 21;13(9):e1007020. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1007020. eCollection 2017 Sep.

A Rab5 GTPase module is important for autophagosome closure.

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College of Life Sciences, Key Laboratory of Agricultural Environmental Microbiology of Ministry of Agriculture, Nanjing Agricultural University, Nanjing, China.
Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics, College of Medicine, University of Illinois at Chicago.
Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Dr. Li Dak Sam & Yap Yio Chin Center for Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine, Zhejiang University School of Medicine, Hangzhou, China.
School of Life Sciences and Technology, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Shanghai, China.
College of Engineering, Nanjing Agricultural University, Nanjing, China.


In the conserved autophagy pathway, the double-membrane autophagosome (AP) engulfs cellular components to be delivered for degradation in the lysosome. While only sealed AP can productively fuse with the lysosome, the molecular mechanism of AP closure is currently unknown. Rab GTPases, which regulate all intracellular trafficking pathways in eukaryotes, also regulate autophagy. Rabs function in GTPase modules together with their activators and downstream effectors. In yeast, an autophagy-specific Ypt1 GTPase module, together with a set of autophagy-related proteins (Atgs) and a phosphatidylinositol-3-phosphate (PI3P) kinase, regulates AP formation. Fusion of APs and endosomes with the vacuole (the yeast lysosome) requires the Ypt7 GTPase module. We have previously shown that the Rab5-related Vps21, within its endocytic GTPase module, regulates autophagy. However, it was not clear which autophagy step it regulates. Here, we show that this module, which includes the Vps9 activator, the Rab5-related Vps21, the CORVET tethering complex, and the Pep12 SNARE, functions after AP expansion and before AP closure. Whereas APs are not formed in mutant cells depleted for Atgs, sealed APs accumulate in cells depleted for the Ypt7 GTPase module members. Importantly, depletion of individual members of the Vps21 module results in a novel phenotype: accumulation of unsealed APs. In addition, we show that Vps21-regulated AP closure precedes another AP maturation step, the previously reported PI3P phosphatase-dependent Atg dissociation. Our results delineate three successive steps in the autophagy pathway regulated by Rabs, Ypt1, Vps21 and Ypt7, and provide the first insight into the upstream regulation of AP closure.

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