Regulation of mitophagy by the Gp78 E3 ubiquitin ligase

Min Fu, Pascal St-Pierre, Jay Shankar, Peter T C Wang, Bharat Joshi, Ivan R Nabi
Molecular Biology of the Cell 2013, 24 (8): 1153-62
Glycoprotein 78 (Gp78) is a critical E3 ubiquitin ligase in endoplasmic reticulum-associated degradation. Overexpression of Flag-tagged Gp78 (Flag-gp78), but not Flag-gp78 mutated in its RING-finger domain (Flag-RINGmut) with deficient ubiquitin ligase activity, induces mitochondrial fragmentation and ubiquitination and proteasome-dependent degradation of the mitofusin (Mfn) mitochondrial fusion factors Mfn1/Mfn2. After mitochondrial depolarization with carbonyl cyanide m-chlorophenylhydrazone (CCCP), Flag-gp78 induced a threefold loss of depolarized mitochondria and significant loss of the inner mitochondrial protein OxPhosV. Flag-gp78-dependent loss of OxPhosV, but not Mfn1 or Mfn2, was prevented by small interfering RNA (siRNA) knockdown of the autophagy protein Atg5 in CCCP-treated cells. Gp78-induced mitophagy required ubiquitin ligase activity, as it is not observed upon transfection of Flag-RINGmut or cotransfection of Flag-gp78 with ubiquitin mutated at three critical lysine residues (K29, 48, 63R) involved in polyubiquitin chain elongation. Short hairpin RNA knockdown of Gp78 in HT-1080 fibrosarcoma cells increased mitofusin levels and reduced depolarization-induced mitophagy, whereas siRNA knockdown showed that Mfn1, but not Mfn2, was required for Gp78-dependent depolarization-induced mitophagy. Mitochondrial depolarization induced Gp78-dependent expression of the autophagic marker LC3II and recruitment of enhanced green fluorescent protein-LC3 to the Gp78- and calnexin-labeled, mitochondria-associated ER. Finally, Gp78-induced mitophagy is Parkin independent, as it occurs in Parkin-null HeLa cells and upon siRNA-mediated Parkin knockdown in HEK293 cells. This study therefore describes a novel role for the ER-associated Gp78 ubiquitin ligase and the Mfn1 mitochondrial fusion factor in mitophagy.

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