JOURNAL ARTICLE

A fluorescence microscopy assay for monitoring mitophagy in the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae

Dalibor Mijaljica, Mark Prescott, Rodney J Devenish
Journal of Visualized Experiments: JoVE 2011, (53)
21788936
Autophagy is important for turnover of cellular components under a range of different conditions. It serves an essential homeostatic function as well as a quality control mechanism that can target and selectively degrade cellular material including organelles. For example, damaged or redundant mitochondria (Fig. 1), not disposed of by autophagy, can represent a threat to cellular homeostasis and cell survival. In the yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, nutrient deprivation (e.g., nitrogen starvation) or damage can promote selective turnover of mitochondria by autophagy in a process termed mitophagy. We describe a simple fluorescence microscopy approach to assess autophagy. For clarity we restrict our description here to show how the approach can be used to monitor mitophagy in yeast cells. The assay makes use of a fluorescent reporter, Rosella, which is a dual-emission biosensor comprising a relatively pH-stable red fluorescent protein linked to a pH-sensitive green fluorescent protein. The operation of this reporter relies on differences in pH between the vacuole (pH - 5.0-5.5) and mitochondria (pH - 8.2) in living cells. Under growing conditions, wild type cells exhibit both red and green fluorescence distributed in a manner characteristic of the mitochondria. Fluorescence emission is not associated with the vacuole. When subjected to nitrogen starvation, a condition which induces mitophagy, in addition to red and green fluorescence labeling the mitochondria, cells exhibit the accumulation of red, but not green fluorescence, in the acidic vacuolar lumen representing the delivery of mitochondria to the vacuole. Scoring cells with red, but not green fluorescent vacuoles can be used as a measure of mitophagic activity in cells.

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