UBC Faculty Research and Publications

Recent Advances in Single-Particle Electron Microscopic Analysis of Autophagy Degradation Machinery Cheung, Yiu Wing Sunny; Nam, Sung-Eun; Yip, Calvin K.


Macroautophagy (also known as autophagy) is a major pathway for selective degradation of misfolded/aggregated proteins and damaged organelles and non-selective degradation of cytoplasmic constituents for the generation of power during nutrient deprivation. The multi-step degradation process, from sequestering cytoplasmic cargo into the double-membrane vesicle termed autophagosome to the delivery of the autophagosome to the lysosome or lytic vacuole for breakdown, is mediated by the core autophagy machinery composed of multiple Atg proteins, as well as the divergent sequence family of selective autophagy receptors. Single-particle electron microscopy (EM) is a molecular imaging approach that has become an increasingly important tool in the structural characterization of proteins and macromolecular complexes. This article summarizes the contributions single-particle EM have made in advancing our understanding of the core autophagy machinery and selective autophagy receptors. We also discuss current technical challenges and roadblocks, as well as look into the future of single-particle EM in autophagy research.

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