LC3 conjugation system in mammalian autophagy

Int J Biochem Cell Biol. 2004 Dec;36(12):2503-18. doi: 10.1016/j.biocel.2004.05.009.


Autophagy is the bulk degradation of proteins and organelles, a process essential for cellular maintenance, cell viability, differentiation and development in mammals. Autophagy has significant associations with neurodegenerative diseases, cardiomyopathies, cancer, programmed cell death, and bacterial and viral infections. During autophagy, a cup-shaped structure, the preautophagosome, engulfs cytosolic components, including organelles, and closes, forming an autophagosome, which subsequently fuses with a lysosome, leading to the proteolytic degradation of internal components of the autophagosome by lysosomal lytic enzymes. During the formation of mammalian autophagosomes, two ubiquitylation-like modifications are required, Atg12-conjugation and LC3-modification. LC3 is an autophagosomal ortholog of yeast Atg8. A lipidated form of LC3, LC3-II, has been shown to be an autophagosomal marker in mammals, and has been used to study autophagy in neurodegenerative and neuromuscular diseases, tumorigenesis, and bacterial and viral infections. The other Atg8 homologues, GABARAP and GATE-16, are also modified by the same mechanism. In non-starved rats, the tissue distribution of LC3-II differs from those of the lipidated forms of GABARAP and GATE-16, GABARAP-II and GATE-16-II, suggesting that there is a functional divergence among these three modified proteins. Delipidation of LC3-II and GABARAP-II is mediated by hAtg4B. We review the molecular mechanism of LC3-modification, the crosstalk between LC3-modification and mammalian Atg12-conjugation, and the cycle of LC3-lipidation and delipidation mediated by hAtg4B, as well as recent findings concerning the other two Atg8 homologues, GABARAP and GATE-16. We also highlight recent findings regarding the pathobiology of LC3-modification, including its role in microbial infection, cancer and neuromuscular diseases.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Autophagy / physiology*
  • Bacterial Infections / physiopathology
  • Cell Differentiation / physiology
  • Humans
  • Mammals
  • Microtubule-Associated Proteins / metabolism
  • Microtubule-Associated Proteins / physiology*
  • Neoplasms / physiopathology
  • Neuromuscular Diseases / physiopathology
  • Signal Transduction / physiology
  • Species Specificity


  • Microtubule-Associated Proteins