A life-span extending form of autophagy employs the vacuole-vacuole fusion machinery

Autophagy. 2008 Oct;4(7):874-86. doi: 10.4161/auto.6556. Epub 2008 Oct 8.


While autophagy is believed to be beneficial for life-span extension, it is controversial which forms or aspects of autophagy are responsible for this effect. We addressed this topic by analyzing the life span of yeast autophagy mutants under caloric restriction, a longevity manipulation. Surprisingly, we discovered that the majority of proteins involved in macroautophagy and several forms of microautophagy were dispensable for life-span extension. The only autophagy protein that is critical for life-span extension was Atg15, a lipase that is located in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) and transported to vacuoles for disintegrating membranes of autophagic bodies. We further found that vacuole-vacuole fusion was required for life-span extension, which was indicated by the shortened life span of mutants missing proteins (ypt7Delta, nyv1Delta, vac8Delta) or lipids (erg6Delta) involved in fusion. Since a known function of vacuole-vacuole fusion is the maintenance of the vacuole membrane integrity, we analyzed aged vacuoles and discovered that aged cells had altered vacuolar morphology and accumulated autophagic bodies, suggesting that certain forms of autophagy do contribute to longevity. Like aged cells, erg6Delta accumulated autophagic bodies, which is likely caused by a defect in lipase instead of proteases due to the existence of multiple vacuolar proteases. Since macroautophagy is not blocked by erg6Delta, we propose that a new form of autophagy transports Atg15 via the fusion of vacuoles with vesicles derived from ER, and we designate this putative form of autophagy as secretophagy. Pending future biochemical studies, the concept of secretophagy may provide a mechanism for autophagy in life-span extension.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Autophagy*
  • Caloric Restriction
  • Endoplasmic Reticulum / metabolism
  • Ergosterol / metabolism
  • Lipoproteins / genetics
  • Lipoproteins / physiology
  • Longevity*
  • Membrane Fusion*
  • Membrane Proteins / genetics
  • Membrane Proteins / physiology
  • Methyltransferases / genetics
  • Methyltransferases / metabolism
  • Mutation
  • SNARE Proteins / genetics
  • SNARE Proteins / physiology
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae / genetics
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae / physiology*
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae Proteins / genetics
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae Proteins / physiology*
  • Sequence Deletion
  • Vacuoles / physiology*
  • Vesicular Transport Proteins


  • Lipoproteins
  • Membrane Proteins
  • SNARE Proteins
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae Proteins
  • VAC8 protein, S cerevisiae
  • Vesicular Transport Proteins
  • Methyltransferases
  • delta 24-sterol methyltransferase
  • Ergosterol