Nature cell biology

Connexins modulate autophagosome biogenesis.

PMID 24705551


The plasma membrane contributes to the formation of autophagosomes, the double-membrane vesicles that sequester cytosolic cargo and deliver it to lysosomes for degradation during autophagy. In this study, we have identified a regulatory role for connexins (Cx), the main components of plasma membrane gap junctions, in autophagosome formation. We have found that plasma-membrane-localized Cx proteins constitutively downregulate autophagy through a direct interaction with several autophagy-related proteins involved in the initial steps of autophagosome formation, such as Atg16 and components of the PI(3)K autophagy initiation complex (Vps34, Beclin-1 and Vps15). On nutrient starvation, this inhibitory effect is released by the arrival of Atg14 to the Cx-Atg complex. This promotes the internalization of Cx-Atg along with Atg9, which is also recruited to the plasma membrane in response to starvation. Maturation of the Cx-containing pre-autophagosomes into autophagosomes leads to degradation of these endogenous inhibitors, allowing for sustained activation of autophagy.