A quantitative assay for the monitoring of autophagosome accumulation in different phases of the cell cycle

Autophagy. 2011 Jan;7(1):83-90. doi: 10.4161/auto.7.1.13893. Epub 2011 Jan 1.


Macroautophagy is a process accompanied by the formation of double-membrane vesicles known as autophagosomes. Although in recently published reviews various methods for the detection of autophagosomes were described, a reliable technique for the automated quantitative evaluation of autophagosome accumulation is still lacking. Here we developed a new assay which is based on the fact that the number of autophagosomes is correlated with the amount of the LC3-II protein, which is specifically associated with autophagosomal membranes. Monitoring of autophagosome: accumulation was performed by extracting the membrane-unbound LC3-I form of the protein from cells, followed by flow cytometric detection of the autophagosomal membrane-associated fraction of LC3-II. This assay could be used for monitoring autophagosomes by flow cytometry utilizing immunostaining with the antibody against the LC3 protein. It is also suitable for analysis of: cells expressing GFP-LC3. We showed that co-staining with propidium iodide allows detection of basal level of autophagosomes in different phases of the cell cycle. Autophagy activators, such as: rapamycin or cell starvation, were able to induce accumulation of autophagosomes in G0/G1, S and G2/M phases. Thus, utilization of this assay simplifies monitoring of autophagosome accumulation induced by different activators or inhibitors of macroautophagy and it is suggested as being useful in the detection of autophagosomes in different phases of the cell cycle.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Autophagy* / drug effects
  • Biological Assay / methods*
  • Cell Cycle* / drug effects
  • Cell Extracts
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Membrane / drug effects
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism
  • Doxycycline / pharmacology
  • Embryo, Mammalian / cytology
  • Fibroblasts / cytology
  • Fibroblasts / drug effects
  • Fibroblasts / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Immunoblotting
  • Mice
  • Microtubule-Associated Proteins / metabolism
  • Phagosomes / drug effects
  • Phagosomes / metabolism*
  • Subcellular Fractions / drug effects
  • Subcellular Fractions / metabolism


  • Cell Extracts
  • Microtubule-Associated Proteins
  • light chain 3, human
  • Doxycycline