Generation of PI3P in the normally PI3P-deficient ER membrane makes the organelle a platform for autophagosome formation.
Autophagy is a catabolic process that allows cells to digest their cytoplasmic constituents via autophagosome formation and lysosomal degradation. Recently, an autophagy-specific phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3-kinase) complex, consisting of hVps34, hVps15, Beclin-1, and Atg14L, has been identified in mammalian cells. Atg14L is specific to this autophagy complex and localizes to the endoplasmic reticulum (ER). Knockdown of Atg14L leads to the disappearance of the DFCP1-positive omegasome, which is a membranous structure closely associated with both the autophagosome and the ER. A point mutation in Atg14L resulting in defective ER localization was also defective in the induction of autophagy. The addition of the ER-targeting motif of DFCP1 to this mutant fully complemented the autophagic defect in Atg14L knockout embryonic stem cells. Thus, Atg14L recruits a subset of class III PI3-kinase to the ER, where otherwise phosphatidylinositol 3-phosphate (PI3P) is essentially absent. The Atg14L-dependent appearance of PI3P in the ER makes this organelle the platform for autophagosome formation.