AtATG18a is required for the formation of autophagosomes during nutrient stress and senescence in Arabidopsis thaliana

Authors

  • Yan Xiong,

    1. Department of Genetics, Development and Cell Biology,
    2. Interdepartmental Plant Physiology Program and
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  • Anthony L. Contento,

    1. Department of Genetics, Development and Cell Biology,
    2. Plant Sciences Institute, 253 Bessey Hall, Iowa State University, Ames, IA 50011, USA
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  • Diane C. Bassham

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Genetics, Development and Cell Biology,
    2. Interdepartmental Plant Physiology Program and
    3. Plant Sciences Institute, 253 Bessey Hall, Iowa State University, Ames, IA 50011, USA
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(fax 515 294 1337; e-mail bassham@iastate.edu).

Summary

Vacuolar autophagy is a major pathway by which eukaryotic cells degrade macromolecules, either to remove damaged or unnecessary proteins, or to produce respiratory substrates and raw materials to survive periods of nutrient deficiency. During autophagy, a double membrane forms around cytoplasmic components to generate an autophagosome, which is transported to the vacuole. The outer membrane fuses with the vacuole or lysosome, and the inner membrane and its contents are degraded by vacuolar or lysosomal hydrolases. We have identified a small gene family in Arabidopsis thaliana, members of which show sequence similarity to the yeast autophagy gene ATG18. Members of the AtATG18 gene family are differentially expressed in response to different growth conditions, and one member of this family, AtATG18a, is induced both during sucrose and nitrogen starvation and during senescence. RNA interference was used to generate transgenic lines with reduced AtATG18a expression. These lines show hypersensitivity to sucrose and nitrogen starvation and premature senescence, both during natural senescence of leaves and in a detached leaf assay. Staining with the autophagosome-specific fluorescent dye monodansylcadaverine revealed that, unlike wild-type plants, AtATG18a RNA interference plants are unable to produce autophagosomes in response to starvation or senescence conditions. We conclude that the AtATG18a protein is likely to be required for autophagosome formation in Arabidopsis.

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