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Microautophagy (unlike Macroautophagy and Chaperone-mediated autophagy) is the type of autophagic pathway which is mediated by direct lysosomal (mammals) or vacuolar (plants and fungi) engulfment of the cytoplasmic cargo. Cytoplasmic material is trapped in the lysosome/vacuole by the random process of membrane invagination. Microautophagic pathway is especially important for survival of cells under starvation, nitrogen deprivation or after treatment with rapamycin. Microautophagy generally is a non-selective process but there are 3 special cases of selective microautophagic pathway (micropexophagy, Piecemeal microautophagy of the nucleus, micromitophagy) which are activated under a specific conditions.[1]

Functions of microautophagy[edit]

Microautophagy together with macroautophagy is necessary for nutrient recycling under starvation. Microautophagy due to degradation of lipids incorporated into vesicles regulates the composition of lysosomal/vacuolar membrane.[1] Microautophagic pathway functions also as one of the mechanism of glycogen delivery into the lysosomes.[2] This autophagic pathway engulfs multivesicular bodies formed after endocytosis therefore it plays role in membrane proteins turnover.[3] Microautophagy is also connected with organellar size maintenance, composition of biological membranes, cell survival under nitrogen restriction, and the transition pathway from starvation-induced growth arrest to logarithmic growth.[1]

Non-selective microautophagy[edit]

Non-selective microautophagic process can be dissected into 5 distinct steps. Majority of experiments were done on yeast (vacuolar invaginations) but the molecular principles seem to be more general [1]

Membrane invagination and autophagic tubes formation[edit]

Invagination is a constitutive process but its frequency is dramatically increased during periods of starvation. Invagination is a tubular process by which is formed the autophagic tube.[4]

Formation of the autophagic tubes is mediated through Atg7-dependent ubiquitin-like conjugation (Ublc) or via vacuolar transporter chaperone (VTC) molecular complex which acts through calmodulin-dependent manner. Calmodulin involvement in tube formation is calcium independent process.[5][6]

Vesicle formation[edit]

The mechanism of vesicle formation is based on lateral sorting mechanism. Changed composition of membrane molecules (lipid enrichment in the autophagic tubes due to removal of transmembrane proteins) leads spontaneous vesicle formation via phase separation mechanism.[4]

The process of microautophagic vesicle formation is similar to multivesicular bodies formation process [7]

Vesicle expansion and scission[edit]

Enlargement of vesicle is mediated by binding enzymes inside of unclosed vesicle. Basically, this process is reversal to endocytosis. Process follows by pich of the vesicle into the lysosomal/vacuolar lumen. This process is independent on SNARE proteins.[8]

Vesicle degradation and recycling[edit]

Vesicle moves freely in the lumen and during the time is degraded by hydrolases (ec. Atg15p). Nutrients are then released by Atg22p.[1]

Selective microautophagy[edit]

Process of non-selective microautophagy can be observed in all types of eucaryotic cells. On the other hand, selective microautophagy is commonly observed in yeast cells. Three types of selective microautophagy selective microautophagy can be distinguished: micropexophagy, piecemeal microautophagy of the nucleus and micromitophagy [1][9]


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  2. ^ Takikita, S; Myerowitz, R; Zaal, K; Raben, N; Plotz, PH (Apr 2009). "Murine muscle cell models for Pompe disease and their use in studying therapeutic approaches". Molecular Genetics and Metabolism. 96 (4): 208–17. doi:10.1016/j.ymgme.2008.12.012. PMC 2680079. PMID 19167256.
  3. ^ Saksena, S; Emr, SD (Feb 2009). "ESCRTs and human disease". Biochemical Society Transactions. 37 (Pt 1): 167–72. doi:10.1042/BST0370167. PMID 19143624.
  4. ^ a b Müller, O; Sattler, T; Flötenmeyer, M; Schwarz, H; Plattner, H; Mayer, A (Oct 30, 2000). "Autophagic tubes: vacuolar invaginations involved in lateral membrane sorting and inverse vesicle budding". The Journal of Cell Biology. 151 (3): 519–28. doi:10.1083/jcb.151.3.519. PMC 2185586. PMID 11062254.
  5. ^ Doelling, JH; Walker, JM; Friedman, EM; Thompson, AR; Vierstra, RD (Sep 6, 2002). "The APG8/12-activating enzyme APG7 is required for proper nutrient recycling and senescence in Arabidopsis thaliana". The Journal of Biological Chemistry. 277 (36): 33105–14. doi:10.1074/jbc.M204630200. PMID 12070171.
  6. ^ Uttenweiler, A; Schwarz, H; Mayer, A (Sep 30, 2005). "Microautophagic vacuole invagination requires calmodulin in a Ca2+-independent function". The Journal of Biological Chemistry. 280 (39): 33289–97. doi:10.1074/jbc.M506086200. PMID 16055436.
  7. ^ Sattler, T; Mayer, A (Oct 30, 2000). "Cell-free reconstitution of microautophagic vacuole invagination and vesicle formation". The Journal of Cell Biology. 151 (3): 529–38. doi:10.1083/jcb.151.3.529. PMC 2185593. PMID 11062255.
  8. ^ Tian, Y; Li, Z; Hu, W; Ren, H; Tian, E; Zhao, Y; Lu, Q; Huang, X; Yang, P; Li, X; Wang, X; Kovács, AL; Yu, L; Zhang, H (Jun 11, 2010). "C. elegans screen identifies autophagy genes specific to multicellular organisms". Cell. 141 (6): 1042–55. doi:10.1016/j.cell.2010.04.034. PMID 20550938.
  9. ^ Mijaljica, D; Prescott, M; Devenish, RJ (Jul 2011). "Microautophagy in mammalian cells: revisiting a 40-year-old conundrum". Autophagy. 7 (7): 673–82. doi:10.4161/auto.7.7.14733. PMID 21646866.