A Role for Macro-ER-Phagy in ER Quality Control
The endoplasmic-reticulum quality-control (ERQC) system shuttles misfolded proteins for degradation by the proteasome through the well-defined ER-associated degradation (ERAD) pathway. In contrast, very little is known about the role of autophagy in ERQC. Macro-autophagy, a collection of pathways that deliver proteins through autophagosomes (APs) for degradation in the lysosome (vacuole in yeast), is mediated by autophagy-specific proteins, Atgs, and regulated by Ypt/Rab GTPases. Until recently, the term ER-phagy was used to describe degradation of ER membrane and proteins in the lysosome under stress: either ER stress induced by drugs or whole-cell stress induced by starvation. These two types of stresses induce micro-ER-phagy, which does not use autophagic organelles and machinery, and non-selective autophagy. Here, we characterize the macro-ER-phagy pathway and uncover its role in ERQC. This pathway delivers 20–50% of certain ER-resident membrane proteins to the vacuole and is further induced to >90% by overexpression of a single integral-membrane protein. Even though such overexpression in cells defective in macro-ER-phagy induces the unfolded-protein response (UPR), UPR is not needed for macro-ER-phagy. We show that macro-ER-phagy is dependent on Atgs and Ypt GTPases and its cargo passes through APs. Moreover, for the first time the role of Atg9, the only integral-membrane core Atg, is uncoupled from that of other core Atgs. Finally, three sequential steps of this pathway are delineated: Atg9-dependent exit from the ER en route to autophagy, Ypt1- and core Atgs-mediated pre-autophagsomal-structure organization, and Ypt51-mediated delivery of APs to the vacuole.