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      Deficiency of prion protein induces impaired autophagic flux in neurons

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          Normal cellular prion protein (PrP C) is highly expressed in the central nervous system. The Zürich I Prnp-deficient mouse strain did not show an abnormal phenotype in initial studies, however, in later studies, deficits in exploratory behavior and short- and long-term memory have been revealed. In the present study, numerous autophagic vacuoles were found in neurons from Zürich I Prnp-deficient mice. The autophagic accumulation in the soma of cortical neurons in Zürich I Prnp-deficient mice was observed as early as 3 months of age, and in the hippocampal neurons at 6 months of age. Specifically, there is accumulation of electron dense pigments associated with autophagy in the neurons of Zürich I Prnp-deficient mice. Furthermore, autophagic accumulations were observed as early as 3 months of age in the CA3 region of hippocampal and cerebral cortical neuropils. The autophagic vacuoles increased with age in the hippocampus of Zürich I Prnp-deficient mice at a faster rate and to a greater extent than in normal C57BL/6J mice, whereas the cortex exhibited high levels that were maintained from 3 months old in Zürich I Prnp-deficient mice. The pigmented autophagic accumulation is due to the incompletely digested material from autophagic vacuoles. Furthermore, a deficiency in PrP C may disrupt the autophagic flux by inhibiting autophagosome-lysosomal fusion. Overall, our results provide insight into the protective role of PrP C in neurons, which may play a role in normal behavior and other brain functions.

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          LC3, a mammalian homologue of yeast Apg8p, is localized in autophagosome membranes after processing.

          Little is known about the protein constituents of autophagosome membranes in mammalian cells. Here we demonstrate that the rat microtubule-associated protein 1 light chain 3 (LC3), a homologue of Apg8p essential for autophagy in yeast, is associated to the autophagosome membranes after processing. Two forms of LC3, called LC3-I and -II, were produced post-translationally in various cells. LC3-I is cytosolic, whereas LC3-II is membrane bound. The autophagic vacuole fraction prepared from starved rat liver was enriched with LC3-II. Immunoelectron microscopy on LC3 revealed specific labelling of autophagosome membranes in addition to the cytoplasmic labelling. LC3-II was present both inside and outside of autophagosomes. Mutational analyses suggest that LC3-I is formed by the removal of the C-terminal 22 amino acids from newly synthesized LC3, followed by the conversion of a fraction of LC3-I into LC3-II. The amount of LC3-II is correlated with the extent of autophagosome formation. LC3-II is the first mammalian protein identified that specifically associates with autophagosome membranes.
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            Guidelines for the use and interpretation of assays for monitoring autophagy.

            In 2008 we published the first set of guidelines for standardizing research in autophagy. Since then, research on this topic has continued to accelerate, and many new scientists have entered the field. Our knowledge base and relevant new technologies have also been expanding. Accordingly, it is important to update these guidelines for monitoring autophagy in different organisms. Various reviews have described the range of assays that have been used for this purpose. Nevertheless, there continues to be confusion regarding acceptable methods to measure autophagy, especially in multicellular eukaryotes. A key point that needs to be emphasized is that there is a difference between measurements that monitor the numbers or volume of autophagic elements (e.g., autophagosomes or autolysosomes) at any stage of the autophagic process vs. those that measure flux through the autophagy pathway (i.e., the complete process); thus, a block in macroautophagy that results in autophagosome accumulation needs to be differentiated from stimuli that result in increased autophagic activity, defined as increased autophagy induction coupled with increased delivery to, and degradation within, lysosomes (in most higher eukaryotes and some protists such as Dictyostelium) or the vacuole (in plants and fungi). In other words, it is especially important that investigators new to the field understand that the appearance of more autophagosomes does not necessarily equate with more autophagy. In fact, in many cases, autophagosomes accumulate because of a block in trafficking to lysosomes without a concomitant change in autophagosome biogenesis, whereas an increase in autolysosomes may reflect a reduction in degradative activity. Here, we present a set of guidelines for the selection and interpretation of methods for use by investigators who aim to examine macroautophagy and related processes, as well as for reviewers who need to provide realistic and reasonable critiques of papers that are focused on these processes. These guidelines are not meant to be a formulaic set of rules, because the appropriate assays depend in part on the question being asked and the system being used. In addition, we emphasize that no individual assay is guaranteed to be the most appropriate one in every situation, and we strongly recommend the use of multiple assays to monitor autophagy. In these guidelines, we consider these various methods of assessing autophagy and what information can, or cannot, be obtained from them. Finally, by discussing the merits and limits of particular autophagy assays, we hope to encourage technical innovation in the field.
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               S B Prusiner (1998)
              Prions are unprecedented infectious pathogens that cause a group of invariably fatal neurodegenerative diseases by an entirely novel mechanism. Prion diseases may present as genetic, infectious, or sporadic disorders, all of which involve modification of the prion protein (PrP). Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), scrapie of sheep, and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) of humans are among the most notable prion diseases. Prions are transmissible particles that are devoid of nucleic acid and seem to be composed exclusively of a modified protein (PrPSc). The normal, cellular PrP (PrPC) is converted into PrPSc through a posttranslational process during which it acquires a high beta-sheet content. The species of a particular prion is encoded by the sequence of the chromosomal PrP gene of the mammals in which it last replicated. In contrast to pathogens carrying a nucleic acid genome, prions appear to encipher strain-specific properties in the tertiary structure of PrPSc. Transgenetic studies argue that PrPSc acts as a template upon which PrPC is refolded into a nascent PrPSc molecule through a process facilitated by another protein. Miniprions generated in transgenic mice expressing PrP, in which nearly half of the residues were deleted, exhibit unique biological properties and should facilitate structural studies of PrPSc. While knowledge about prions has profound implications for studies of the structural plasticity of proteins, investigations of prion diseases suggest that new strategies for the prevention and treatment of these disorders may also find application in the more common degenerative diseases.

                Author and article information

                1Ilsong Institute of Life Science, Hallym University Anyang, Gyeonggi-do, South Korea
                2New York State Institute for Basic Research in Developmental Disabilities Staten Island, NY, USA
                3Department of Biomedical Gerontology, Graduate School of Hallym University Chuncheon, Gangwon-do, South Korea
                4Department of Microbiology, College of Medicine, Hallym University Chuncheon, Gangwon-do, South Korea
                Author notes

                Edited by: Xiongwei Zhu, Case Western Reserve University, USA

                Reviewed by: Hyoung-gon Lee, Case Western Reserve University, USA; Xinglong Wang, Case Western Reserve University, USA

                *Correspondence: Eun-Kyoung Choi and Yong-Sun Kim, Ilsong Institute of Life Science, Hallym University, 15 Gwanpyeong-ro 170 beon-gil, Anyang, Gyeonggi-do 1605-4, South Korea e-mail: ekchoi@ ; yskim@

                This article was submitted to the journal Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience.

                Front Aging Neurosci
                Front Aging Neurosci
                Front. Aging Neurosci.
                Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience
                Frontiers Media S.A.
                08 July 2014
                25 August 2014
                : 6
                Copyright © 2014 Shin, Park, Carp, Choi and Kim.

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

                Figures: 7, Tables: 0, Equations: 0, References: 71, Pages: 12, Words: 7372
                Original Research Article


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