The membrane peroxin PEX3 induces peroxisome-ubiquitination-linked pexophagy.

PMID 25007327


Peroxisomes are degraded by a selective type of autophagy known as pexophagy. Several different types of pexophagy have been reported in mammalian cells. However, the mechanisms underlying how peroxisomes are recognized by autophagy-related machinery remain elusive. PEX3 is a peroxisomal membrane protein (PMP) that functions in the import of PMPs into the peroxisomal membrane and has been shown to interact with pexophagic receptor proteins during pexophagy in yeast. Thus, PEX3 is important not only for peroxisome biogenesis, but also for peroxisome degradation. However, whether PEX3 is involved in the degradation of peroxisomes in mammalian cells is unclear. Here, we report that high levels of PEX3 expression induce pexophagy. In PEX3-loaded cells, peroxisomes are ubiquitinated, clustered, and degraded in lysosomes. Peroxisome targeting of PEX3 is essential for the initial step of this degradation pathway. The degradation of peroxisomes is inhibited by treatment with autophagy inhibitors or siRNA against NBR1, which encodes an autophagic receptor protein. These results indicate that ubiquitin- and NBR1-mediated pexophagy is induced by increased expression of PEX3 in mammalian cells. In addition, another autophagic receptor protein, SQSTM1/p62, is required only for the clustering of peroxisomes. Expression of a PEX3 mutant with substitution of all lysine and cysteine residues by arginine and alanine, respectively, also induces peroxisome ubiquitination and degradation, hence suggesting that ubiquitination of PEX3 is dispensable for pexophagy and an endogenous, unidentified peroxisomal protein is ubiquitinated on the peroxisomal membrane.