ATG8 lipidation and ATG8-mediated autophagy in Arabidopsis require ATG12 expressed from the differentially controlled ATG12A AND ATG12B loci

Plant J. 2010 May;62(3):483-93. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-313X.2010.04166.x. Epub 2010 Feb 3.


Autophagic recycling of intracellular plant constituents is maintained at a basal level under normal growth conditions but can be induced in response to nutritional demand, biotic stress, and senescence. One route requires the ubiquitin-fold proteins Autophagy-related (ATG)-8 and ATG12, which become attached to the lipid phosphatidylethanolamine (PE) and the ATG5 protein, respectively, during formation of the engulfing vesicle and delivery of its cargo to the vacuole for breakdown. Here, we genetically analyzed the conjugation machinery required for ATG8/12 modification in Arabidopsis thaliana with a focus on the two loci encoding ATG12. Whereas single atg12a and atg12b mutants lack phenotypic consequences, atg12a atg12b double mutants senesce prematurely, are hypersensitive to nitrogen and fixed carbon starvation, and fail to accumulate autophagic bodies in the vacuole. By combining mutants eliminating ATG12a/b, ATG5, or the ATG10 E2 required for their condensation with a method that unequivocally detects the ATG8-PE adduct, we also show that ATG8 lipidation requires the ATG12-ATG5 conjugate. Unlike ATG8, ATG12 does not associate with autophagic bodies, implying that its role(s) during autophagy is restricted to events before the vacuolar deposition of vesicles. The expression patterns of the ATG12a and ATG12b genes and the effects of single atg12a and atg12b mutants on forming the ATG12-ATG5 conjugate reveal that the ATG12b locus is more important during basal autophagy while the ATG12a locus is more important during induced autophagy. Taken together, we conclude that the formation of the ATG12-ATG5 adduct is essential for ATG8-mediated autophagy in plants by promoting ATG8 lipidation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Arabidopsis / genetics*
  • Arabidopsis / metabolism
  • Arabidopsis Proteins / genetics
  • Arabidopsis Proteins / metabolism*
  • Autophagy*
  • Autophagy-Related Protein 12
  • Autophagy-Related Protein 5
  • DNA, Bacterial / genetics
  • Mutagenesis, Insertional
  • Mutation
  • Phenotype
  • Phosphoric Monoester Hydrolases / genetics
  • Phosphoric Monoester Hydrolases / metabolism
  • Vacuoles / metabolism


  • ATG12 protein, Arabidopsis
  • Arabidopsis Proteins
  • Autophagy-Related Protein 12
  • Autophagy-Related Protein 5
  • DNA, Bacterial
  • T-DNA
  • Atg5 protein, Arabidopsis
  • Phosphoric Monoester Hydrolases