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The study of two transmembrane autophagy proteins and the autophagy receptor, p62



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Runwal, Gautam 


Autophagy is an evolutionarily conserved process across eukaryotes that is responsible for degradation of cargo such as aggregate-prone proteins, pathogens, damaged organelles, macromolecules etc. via its delivery to lysosomes. The process is known to involve the formation of a double-membraned structure, called autophagosome, that engulfs the cargo destined for degradation and delivers its contents by fusing with lysosomes. This process involves several proteins at its core which include two transmembrane proteins, ATG9 and VMP1. While ATG9 and VMP1 has been discovered for about a decade and half, the trafficking and function of these proteins remain relatively unclear. My work in this thesis identifies and characterises a novel trafficking route for ATG9 and VMP1 and shows that both these proteins traffic via the dynamin-independent ARF6-associated pathway. Moreover, I also show that these proteins physically interact with each other. In addition, the tools developed during these studies helped me identify a new role for the most common autophagy receptor protein, p62. I show that p62 can specifically associate with and sequester LC3-I in autophagy-impaired cells (ATG9 and ATG16 null cells) leading to formation of LC3-positive structures that can be misinterpreted as mature autophagosomes. Perturbations in the levels of p62 were seen to affect the formation of these LC3-positive structures in cells. This observation, therefore, questions the reliability of LC3-immunofluorescence assays in autophagy-impaired cells as method of assessing autophagy and points towards the homeostatic function played by p62 in autophagy-impaired cells.





Rubinsztein, David


ATG9, p62, VMP1, Autophagy-deficient cells, Autophagy assay


Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Awarding Institution

University of Cambridge
Commonwealth Scholarships Commission, UK