Cell migration is dependent on a series of integrated cellular events including the membrane recycling of the extracellular matrix receptor integrins. In this paper, we investigate the role of autophagy in regulating cell migration. In a wound-healing assay, we observed that autophagy was reduced in cells at the leading edge than in cells located rearward. These differences in autophagy were correlated with the robustness of MTOR activity. The spatial difference in the accumulation of autophagic structures was not detected in rapamycin-treated cells, which had less migration capacity than untreated cells. In contrast, the knockdown of the autophagic protein ATG7 stimulated cell migration of HeLa cells. Accordingly, atg3(-/-) and atg5(-/-) MEFs have greater cell migration properties than their wild-type counterparts. Stimulation of autophagy increased the co-localization of β1 integrin-containing vesicles with LC3-stained autophagic vacuoles. Moreover, inhibition of autophagy slowed down the lysosomal degradation of internalized β1 integrins and promoted its membrane recycling. From these findings, we conclude that autophagy regulates cell migration, a central mechanism in cell development, angiogenesis, and tumor progression, by mitigating the cell surface expression of β1 integrins.
Keywords: MTOR; cell migration; endocytosis; integrins; lysosomes; macroautophagy.