Ubiquitination and proteasomal degradation of ATG12 regulates its proapoptotic activity


During macroautophagy, conjugation of ATG12 to ATG5 is essential for LC3 lipidation and autophagosome formation. Additionally, ATG12 has ATG5-independent functions in diverse processes including mitochondrial fusion and mitochondrial-dependent apoptosis. In this study, we investigated the regulation of free ATG12. In stark contrast to the stable ATG12-ATG5 conjugate, we find that free ATG12 is highly unstable and rapidly degraded in a proteasome-dependent manner. Surprisingly, ATG12, itself a ubiquitin-like protein, is directly ubiquitinated and this promotes its proteasomal degradation. As a functional consequence of its turnover, accumulation of free ATG12 contributes to proteasome inhibitor-mediated apoptosis, a finding that may be clinically important given the use of proteasome inhibitors as anticancer agents. Collectively, our results reveal a novel interconnection between autophagy, proteasome activity, and cell death mediated by the ubiquitin-like properties of ATG12.

Journal details

Journal Autophagy
Volume 10
Issue number 12
Pages 2269-2278
Publication date