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The ULK1-FBXW5-SEC23B Nexus Controls Autophagy

Yeon-Tae Jeong, Daniele Simoneschi, Sarah Keegan, David Melville, Natalia S. Adler, Anita Saraf, Laurence Florens, Michael P. Washburn, Claudio N. Cavasotto, David Fenyö, Ana-Maria Cuervo, Mario Rossi, Michele Pagano

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ABSTRACTIn response to nutrient deprivation, the cell needs to mobilize an extensive amount of membrane to form and grow the autophagosome, allowing the progression of autophagy. By providing membranes and a source for LC3 lipidation, COPII (Coat Protein Complex II) localizes to the endoplasmic reticulum (ER)-Golgi intermediate compartment (ERGIC) and promotes autophagosome biogenesis. However, the molecular mechanisms that, in response to starvation, divert COPII from the secretory pathway to the autophagic pathway are largely unknown. Here, we show that the F-box protein FBXW5 targets SEC23B, a component of COPII, for proteasomal degradation and that this event limits the autophagic flux in the presence of nutrients. In response to starvation, ULK1 phosphorylates SEC23B on Serine 186, preventing the interaction of SEC23B with FBXW5 and, therefore, inhibiting its degradation. Phosphorylated and stabilized SEC23B associates with SEC24A and SEC24B, but not SEC24C and SEC24D, and they re-localize to the ERGIC, promoting autophagic flux. Induction of autophagy and localization of both SEC23B and SEC24B to the ERGIC in response to nutrient deprivation are significantly reduced in SEC23B(S186A) knock-in cells. We propose that, in the presence of nutrients, FBXW5 limits COPII-mediated autophagosome biogenesis. Inhibition of this event by ULK1 ensures efficient execution of the autophagic cascade in response to nutrient starvation.