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TMEM74 promotes tumor cell survival by inducing autophagy via interactions with ATG16L1 and ATG9A.

Cell death & disease (2017-10-20)
Yizhe Sun, Yingyu Chen, Jingyu Zhang, Lulu Cao, Minwei He, Xi Liu, Ning Zhao, Ang Yin, He Huang, Lu Wang

Autophagy is a highly inducible system of intracellular degradation that occurs in lysosomes or vacuoles. Transmembrane 74 (TMEM74) has been shown to induce autophagy. However, the mechanism by which TMEM74 stimulates autophagy and the impacts of TMEM74-induced autophagy on tumor cell survival remain unclear. In this study, TMEM74 was shown to increase the autophagic flux process in different tumor cell lines. Further investigations revealed that TMEM74 interacts with ATG16L1 and ATG9A. Moreover, distinctive from the common autophagy models, it is found that TMEM74-related autophagy is independent of BECN1/PI3KC3 complex and ULK1, and TMEM74 may initiate and promote autophagy directly via interactions with ATG16L1 and ATG9A responsible for the nucleation and elongation respectively. Considering the ultimate outcome of TMEM74-induced autophagy in tumor cells, TMEM74-triggered autophagy induces a pro-survival effect on tumor cells, particularly cells under metabolic stress, consistent with alteration of a series of signal pathways. Intriguingly, TMEM74 itself can be downregulated through the autophagic process, which indicates that a potential self-regulatory loop exists so as to maintain an appropriate level of autophagy, avoiding excessive autophagy to commit tumor cells to death. According to the clinical database analysis, the high expression of TMEM74 significantly shortens the surviving periods of patients in several specific cancers indicating that TMEM74 itself can be treated as an effective potential target with clinical values to prolong surviving periods of cancer patients in the future. In conclusion, our study reveals a new mechanism by which autophagy is stimulated by a novel positive modulator through a unique pathway and demonstrates a novel connection between autophagy and cell survival, which undoubtedly serves to broaden our understanding of autophagy.

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